Posted by: calloftheandes | June 7, 2010

Tungurahua Ash Plume has Little Impact on HCJB Global’s Ministries

File photo by D. Birkey

Ecuador’s Geophysics Institute reported that the Tungurahua volcano blasted a plume of ash six miles into the sky on Friday, May 28, with ash then drifting Guayaquil two provinces away.

The blast occurred at 8:47 a.m., prompting authorities to restrict travel from Ambato, just northwest of the mountain, to Baños, a town near the base of the mountain. The volcano is about 90 miles south of Quito.

Further east at HCJB Global’s Vozandes Hospital in the jungle town of Shell, Director Steve Wilson cited a telephone conversation in which an ambulance driver said officials granted him passage only because he drove an emergency vehicle. However, physician Steve Nelson traveled to Quito without incident on an alternate route back to the capital city.

On Saturday HCJB Global missionaries traveled unimpeded from Shell to Baños and then to Ambato. One reported that Tungurahua was throwing out smoke and rocks. By Tuesday, June 1, Wilson said “buses and trucks are driving by as normal. The ash is going in the other direction toward Guayaquil, so there has been no direct impact on Shell.”

Airline flights were canceled last Friday evening and much of Saturday at Guayaquil’s international airport, a coastal city of about 2 million. However, by 5 p.m. Saturday flights had resumed.

Police on Friday blocked entry to two small communities in Tungurahua province, Cusúa and Juive Grande, considered at greatest risk. Authorities said small rocks and stones had fallen nearby and that 60 families had voluntarily evacuated the area.

“Nobody has obligated them to leave,” said Jorge Guerrón of the Police Risk and Securities Unit. An AFP news report cited the Risks Secretariat as confirming evacuations from many towns. “Up to now the situation is controlled,” coordinator Felipe Bazán was quoted as saying, “400 to 500 families have been evacuated.”

The alert level in Baños, a community of about 18,000 just five miles north of the crater, has been at yellow or higher since 2000.

HCJB Global’s assistance since Tungurahua roared to life in 1999 after 79 years of dormancy involved determining and assisting with community needs in the volcano zone. A team surveyed needs in 2008 ( after a Tungurahua blast, and in late 2006 a team traveled to Penipe to assess the situation, provide food to refugees and give medical care to those affected by the ash after an eruption in mid-July.

In late 1999 the mission helped out 500 families living in shelters. Each family received a basket of groceries, a blanket and a New Testament. Staff at Hospital Vozandes-Shell also helped some evacuees living in Puyo.

Reports by geologists monitoring the volcano are available at


  1. […] Tungurahua reactivated in 1999 after 79 years of dormancy, and has been closely monitored since then by the Geophysical Institute. The most recent spate of emissions began on Wednesday, April 20. […]

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