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Pininchua (Ecuador) Erupts

11th Oct 1999 Pininchua Volcano

Here we go again, another bulletin from the middle of the world! This time, somewhat longer and with a bonus - scanned photo!

I have little idea of how much you already know, as it seems in the previous "disasters" here, no news has reached the rest of the world, so I shall assume nothing and write you a report!

About 2 weeks ago, the volcano which looks down on to the city of Quito started expressing its annoyance and frustrations to the World. Mother Earth has been sending out very clear and loud messages in the last month, and it would seem, Pichinchua wanted a peace of the action!

We felt nothing, saw and heard nothing unusual but were all of a sudden put on to an orange alert. Previously, almost exactly a year ago we were put on yellow but nothing had happened in all this time and so it is fairly accurate to say that the volcano was pretty much forgotten about.

Now before continuing, I'll explain the alerts, there are 4: White (expect nothing for years, active but not too much). Yellow (eruption in months or weeks), Orange (eruption in weeks or days) and Red (eruption in days or hours).

Now all of a sudden, on a general common everyday ordinary day we were told not to panic - but you're in orange.

The newspapers and television channels were full of the impending disaster ...and then Wednesday (week before last) the message swept across the city...Tonight you're gonna be in Red.

My landlady and family abandoned city but as I read the supplement (helpfully supplied by El Comercio - the newspaper) and worked out that I was in a zone which would be affected by ash, water and mud.... but not lava, I decided to stay on.

Classes terminated early, my boyfriend picked me up and we raced to Supermaxi to buy the essential supplies. You know, candles, canned foods, cookies, icecream and cigarettes...oh and videos! Well, the supermarket itself looked as if had suffered from hurricane damage as the entire city had descended on it and were there for the same reasons...... not a bottle, carton of milk on a single shelf...IT WAS THE MADDEST THING I'VE SEEN SO FAR....

But, after masks were purchased, windows and chimneys sealed, extra water purchased for the dispenser, cat locked up turned out to be a false alarm...still in orange.

This situation went on for days with all in an excited-scarred-wow-panic... however, children were locked up permanently in doors going crazy and the parents too I assume....nothing was happening .... volcano, what volcano so the authorities told us...we are back in yellow....

Great. Sigh of relief. Masks out of handbag and packed in storage. That was Monday.

Tuesday evening around 4.30 the ash began to fall. No warnings were issued...just the sky was black and then that black started coming down. I raced home from a company class to get the mask from its hiding place and continued on to the Experiment.

By 6pm the students who had turned up, with tears pleaded to return home. A cloud of 70km in width and 18km in height deposited an ash rain lasting 5-6 hours, dropping 280,000 tonnes of ash on to the North and Center of the City.

Breathing was difficult, seeing through grit filled contact lenses worse. But the worst was the clean up action the next morning!!!! Despite the fact it was about 3mm, it was 3mm covering EVERYTHING.... we were warned that if it rained the ash would turn into a mud like cement and would be impossible to get rid off.

So Ivan and I spent the morning Cleaning Cleaning Cleaning.... very dull work and very uncomfortable because the ash is so fine that even with a mask you can't avoid breathing in some of it.

But that wasn't the last of the surprises. On Thursday there was another explosion (twice as large as the previous but 80% gases and water and 20% ash) on a cloudless sunny morning. Reactions varied from the expected "It's the end of the World" to boggled eyes at the beauty that exists within the destructive power of Mother Nature.

So it would seem that Pichinchua is one mean angry volcano and who knows what will happen in the future days, weeks or months.

But don't worry folks, according to the expert International Volcanologists... the lava will run in the opposite direction - towards Mindo, a beautiful picturesque, butterly filled, town...... unfortunately.

And my biggest complaint is the eventual int-eruption of classes as actually I am finding it all very exciting.

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