Thursday, October 7, 1999 Published at 20:01 GMT 21:01 UK
Ecuador volcano active again
Work had to wait as people watched the spectacle
Fear is rising in Ecuador's capital, Quito, after the Guagua Pichincha volcano spewed a huge plume of steam and ash into the sky for the second time in a week.
The sky over the capital was virtually blacked out, and officials were quoted as saying they expected "several tonnes of ash" to fall in Quito.
Eight minutes later there was another strong explosion, followed by a third, less intense, at 0807am (1307GMT).
Schools are closed and many of Quito's 1.5 million inhabitants have taken to wearing face masks.
The city's international airport is closed again after a brief re-opening on Thursday morning.
The volcano began smoking on Friday but officials lifted a heightened state of alert across the city on Monday after signs that the activity had stabilised.
"The volcano has not changed its activity," said Ecuadorian Institute of Geophysics director Hugo Yepez on Monday.
"This [ash fall] is just beginning and one has to get used to it."
Months or years
Volcanologists say the activity is part of a slow decompression process and there is no danger of the volcano exploding.
Quito, which is 2,900 metres (9,600ft) above sea-level in the Andes, is surrounded by nine active volcanoes. Guagua Pichincha is about 12km (7 miles) away.
Pichincha has erupted at least 25 times, the last recorded activity being in 1993.
Quito has been devastated by eruptions several times. The worst of these occurred in 1660, when more than 25cm (10in) of ash and volcanic rock rained down on the city.