October 13, 2000

Villagers missing in Ecuador volcano landslide

                  QUITO, Ecuador (Reuters) -- An unknown number of rural residents were
                  missing on Friday after central Ecuador's extinct El Altar volcano unleashed a
                  massive landslide of ice and rock that destroyed homes, the Red Cross said.

                  "Many homes are seriously affected and many people have disappeared and are
                  trapped inside their homes," Cristain Rivera, director of the local Red Cross, told

                  "We don't have a (death or injury) count because rescue groups have yet to arrive
                  on the scene," Rivera continued.

                  The landslide occurred at 5:15 a.m. (10:15 GMT) at El Altar, which is located
                  about 116 miles (186 km) south of the capital city Quito, the Geophysical
                  Institute at Ecuador's Polytechnic University reported.

                  Exactly what triggered the landslide was not immediately known. But the walls
                  of an extinct volcano are hollow and can cave in.

                  El Altar ("The Altar") is 17,021 feet (5,319 meters) high, making it the fifth
                  largest among the series of volcanoes that dot the small Andean nation of 12.4
                  million people.

                     Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved.