Ecuador's volcano Tungurahua has been particularly active this week, spewing ash up to 23,000 feet (7 kilometers), putting on a fiery light show, and rumbling with at least 70 measurable explosions. Ash has dusted the region and some localized pyroclastic flows—masses of hot rock and gas—have been seen. Volcanic blocks have been tossed up to a kilometer away.
The volcanologists on the scene say this relatively moderate eruption may continue for some time, and it's possible it could build into something bigger (and potentially life threatening). (See more pictures of Tungurahua erupting in the recent past.)
Tungurahua lies about 84 miles (135 kilometers) southeast of the capital city of Quito. The 16,475-foot (5,023-meter) volcano has been erupting intermittently since October 1999. Tungurahua means "throat of fire" in the region’s indigenous Quechua language.
Prior to 1999, the volcano's last major eruption occurred from 1916 to 1918, with minor activity continuing until 1925, according to the Smithsonian Institution's Global Volcanism Program.
Tungurahua "certainly ranks as one of the volcanoes that keeps people up at night," Smithsonian volcanologist Richard Wunderman previously told National Geographic.
"It's scary," he said.
Eruptions in 2006 killed at least four people, left two missing, and forced the evacuation of thousands of people. The volcano is currently on orange alert, and people are being advised to stay clear of the area.
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