Sunday, October 17, 1999 Published at 01:09 GMT 02:09 UK
Ecuador volcano forces evacuation
Banos residents prepare to move out
The authorities in Ecuador have begun evacuating thousands of people at risk from a possible eruption of the Tungurahua volcano, some 120 km (74 miles) south of the capital Quito.
Scientists have declared an orange alert for Tungurahua, which means the 5,016-metre (16,266-foot) high volcano could erupt at any time in the next few days.
Nearly 70% of the town's 30,000 residents have left since a yellow alert was issued a month ago.
Ecuadoran President Jamil Mahuad was taken on an observation flight around the crater and afterwards went on radio to tell people he was "very concerned" for their safety.
"Everyone should leave now," he said, singling out residents of Banos, Penipe, Puela and Bilbao.
The authorities have set up more than 100 temporary shelters to house the evacuees.
In the last few weeks, Tungurahua has belched out some 10,000 tonnes of vapour per day, and an enormous black cloud hangs over its crater.
The last time it erupted was in 1916.
Meanwhile, the Guagua Pichincha volcano situated just 10km (six miles) west of Quito, continues to worry authorities after its last eruption on 7 October.
After being dormant for 340 years, the volcano erupted on 5 October, covering Quito and surrounding areas in 5,000 tonnes of ash.