Peru Volcano Stirs to Life After Half Century; Villagers Evacuated

Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 08:09 AM

By Nick Sanchez

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A Peruvian volcano dormant for nearly half a century began ejecting smoke and ash this week, prompting authorities to evacuate villagers living just below.

According to the Peruvian Times, the Ubinas volcano near Arequipa registered 335 seismic events by 3 p.m. on Monday, and just over an hour later experienced five low-intensity explosions.

Next to the volcano in Querapi and Ubinas, civil defense workers handed out gas masks and other safety equipment to the residents and relocated approximately 60 people.

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"The volcano has been emitting a lot of ash all day, the people in the town (of Ubinas) are having some problems breathing," Ubinas mayor Pascual Coaquira told Agence France-Presse.

"They have been given masks," he said, adding that the entire Moquegua region — home to roughly 40 dormant volcanoes — was on alert. He explained that the authorities were also "readying a shelter for refugees from the blasts."

Scientists at the Peruvian Geophysical Institute said there has been an influx of magma in the volcano's crater causing the smoke and ash, but they don't predict any high-level explosions. They say the real danger would likely come from the ash, which can affect humans, animals and vegetation.

Past magma movement indicates that if molten rock, also known as lava, were to rise out of the crater it would likely move slowly, cool quickly, and generally not pose a threat.

The Ubinas volcano is one of Peru's most picturesque, and enthusiasts have captured it in many states both calm and agitated, often sharing those pictures of social media.

Interest in volcanic activity has picked up in the last few months after Yellowstone National Park's super-volcano, also known as a "caldera," was discovered to be several times larger than previously thought. Scientists say the last time it erupted, millions of years ago, it affected the entire earth and killed animals with its ash all the way to Nebraska.

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