QUITO, Ecuador (AP) -- The Pichincha volcano blew a huge cloud of
vapor and ash nine kilometers (five miles) into the sky late Friday, but
southwesterly winds appeared to be carrying most of the volcanic material
away from the capital city.
"We are still evaluating the proportions of the explosion, but as of now
can say it was one of the largest," Quito Mayor Roque Sevilla said.
Pichincha awoke from 339 years of inactivity last year, and for the last
and a half months has registered a series of large and small eruptions.
Last month, an eruption from the 4,800-meter (15,840-foot) volcano burst
15 kilometers (nine miles) into the sky and blanketed the city of 1.4 million
residents with a heavy coating of gray ash, in some areas as thick as one
centimeter (a quarter inch).
The mushroom-shaped eruption Friday "was a marvelous spectacle, but also
frightening because of the possible shower of ash" that could result, said
"All indications are that the wind will dissipate the cloud in a matter
hours," he added.
City residents were warned to be prepared with masks to prevent inhaling
the acrid ash.
Pichincha's crater, which scientists do not expect to produce an explosion
lava, lies on a lower side of a mountain range, 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) west
of the capital, facing away from the city.
It has not been considered a direct threat to Quito's population, although
explosions of ash have several times prompted the closure of schools and
The last giant eruption from Pichincha occurred in 1660, and did not kill
anyone, but spewed ash for nine days.