October 16, 1999
Volcano alert forces Ecuador town to evacuate

                  QUITO, Ecuador (Reuters) -- Banos, one of Ecuador's most scenic towns,
                  will be evacuated because the Tungurahua volcano threatens to send lava
                  and burning gas its way in the next few days or weeks, officials said on

                  Scientists have declared an "orange alert" for Tungurahua, meaning Banos'
                  20,000 people along with residents of other villages on the volcano's slopes
                  must move, a volcanologist at Ecuador's Geophysics Institute told Reuters.

                  Banos lies 105 miles (170 km) south of the capital Quito. With its hot
                  springs and waterfalls tumbling down green slopes, the town is among
                  Ecuador's biggest tourist draws.

                  Just below the equator but at 5,900 feet (1,800 metres) above sea level, it
                  enjoys a crisp climate of eternal spring and a spectacular view of
                  snowcapped Tungurahua, whose name means "Throat of Fire" in the
                  Quechua Indian language.

                  Tungurahua began to rumble in September. It last erupted in 1916, forcing
                  locals to flee wearing wooden bowls on their heads for protection against
                  falling rocks.

                  Scientists say the volcano erupts every 100 years or so and lava could flow
                  over a ridge into parts of Banos.

                  Ecuador has 31 active volcanoes.

                  Quito is surrounded by nine volcanoes, one of which, Guagua Pichincha,
                  recently begun to shower the capital with ash.

                  The last time Guagua Pichincha erupted was in 1660.

                     Copyright 1999 Reuters.