The government of Ecuador declared a nationwide state of emergency on Saturday as it prepared for a major eruption of a volcano located south of the country’s capital, Quito.
The order, which suspends some constitutional rights and bans media from publishing unauthorized information, will free up already budgeted funds for possible disaster recovery efforts and stop rumors from causing panic, President Rafael Correa said in his weekly radio and television broadcast to the nation.
The order will be in effect for up to 60 days.
Cotopaxi, which rises approximately 19,350 feet above sea level, began erupting on Aug. 14th. A series of small eruptions have sent ash clouds three miles into the air and forced towns south of Quito to be evacuated.
Cotopaxi is located 31 miles south of Quito and was last active between 1877 and 1880, according to the South American nation’s Geophysical Institute (IGEPN). Approximately 2.2 million people live in the greater Quito metropolitan area and could be exposed to potential fallout from a large-scale eruption.
IGEPN said in a report Friday that the volcano will likely continue to erupt, with larger explosions following the smallers ones already seen as magma creeps toward the volcano’s surface,
In addition to falling ash, authorities are preparing for mudslides and flooding in the towns surrounding the volcano, which includes Quito’s suburbs. The flooding would be caused by the glaciers covering the peak of the mountain being melted during an eruption.
Quito's recent urban expansion has been on flood plains, increasing risks.