“What do you think is going to happen?” is the most common question asked around town these days. Everyone knows what the question is addressing without having to name it. They aren’t talking about the weather or the futbol team or the economy or the recent political unrest. It is more pressing and obvious.
They are asking about the massive, 19,393 feet, Cotopaxi Volcano that looms large and has been puffing white smoke and ash from its center since August 14th. The snow around the mouth of the volcano is melting from the activity, and people's nerves are on edge.
Alangasi, the town where we are living, is located in the Valle de los Chillos, outside of Quito. This valley was formed from numerous lava flows spewed from Cotopaxi over the centuries. From the house where we are living, we have a direct view of this symmetrical snowcapped volcano that is also one of the world’s largest active volcanoes. This is the culprit that has sent coatings of ash upon the property over the last five weeks.
|view near property|
If Cotopaxi erupts much of the valley will again be demolished with fast moving lava. This is obviously not a comforting thought to consider for anyone living within its path. The last major volcanic eruption of 1877 had disastrous lava flows that traveled for more than 60 miles, meeting the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Amazon River to the east. Thankfully, Alangasi is one of the few safe zones within the valley. So while much around us will be demolished, Alangasi should not be directly crushed. This has helped ease some of the worry, but we will still be affected if it erupts and have our emergency supplies just in case, such as: water, baby food, canned goods, masks, goggles, candles, and tape to secure any openings of the house from outside ash.
|Cotopoxi before current eruptions|
An aspect that makes this more disconcerting is the lack of available information and the rumors that are spreading like wildfire. President Correa has been increasing his censorship upon freedom of speech, and this has included speech about the activity of Cotopaxi. He is the only person that can allow official information about the volcano’s activity to be distributed, and he has placed the province on code yellow alert – whatever that means. All other announcements are either deleted or ignored. Despite the censorship efforts, rumors continue to abound. A friend recently told us that she heard from a government worker that the volcano was going to erupt within two weeks. That was three weeks ago. Everyone has their theory and has heard inside information from someone.
The lava will either continue to raise and overflow from the volcano rim or Cotopaxi will return to sleep. No one knows. But one thing is for sure, it has definitely made things interesting while living here.