UN offers aid to Ecuador as thousands evacuated after Tungurahua Volcano erupts

17 July 2006

United Nations agencies are offering humanitarian assistance to the Government of Ecuador after Tungurahua Volcano erupted, spewing out pyroclastic flows, shooting ash six kilometres into the air and forcing more than 3,600 people from high-risk areas to be evacuated.

No deaths have been reported after the volcano, located 135 kilometres southeast of the capital Quito, began erupting last Friday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, adding that initially there had been several strong explosions that by Sunday were occurring every 30 to 40 minutes.

Ecuador’s Government has not requested international assistance but a UN Emergency Technical Team has been coordinating with the provincial authorities, which are leading the national response, as well as with the Civil Defence and the national Red Cross.

In addition, the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization (WHO/PAHO) is working with the authorities to assess the health situation, while contingency plans and quick response teams have been activated, and a health situation room has been set up in the province.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has delivered 750 food rations to the Civil Defence warehouse in Tungurahua, which will be distributed in Tungurahua and Chimborazo, including through the Government’s social feeding programme, OCHA said.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has offered to provide 150 tents for shelter, while the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will supply teaching materials for children in shelters.

The last major eruption of Tungurahua Volcano, which has an altitude of 5,105 metres, occurred in October 1999.


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