A Rare Glimpse of Cotopaxi

By Kirk Siegler | October 19, 2015 | Ecuador

This morning I got a rare glimpse of the 19,340 ft. Cotopaxi Volcano from the roof of my hotel.  No, that’s not a cloud mingling around it and yes it’s currently quite active.  It has been like this off and on since August, in fact. The national park (hugely popular with climbers around the world) has been closed about as long and the government has been begun moving thousands of people who live beneath it as well as setting up evacuation zones and centers and other contingency plans.  

The good news is this is one of the most studied volcanoes in the world, so everything is being closely monitored. The bad news is that Cotopaxi is due for a major eruption (the last major one occurred more than 100 years ago)

Probably the biggest concern in the event of a major incident is ice and mudslides wiping out communities immediately around the mountain (some as close as the low land suburbs of Quito).  Another is that tremendous amounts of ash could effectively shut down major population areas for days as far away as the coast. 

Even with so many unknowns about what could happen - or perhaps because of this - life in the center of Quito goes on.   

In fact, Ecuador’s top geologist was in the news this week urging the public to not grow complacent as the months pass - even a minor eruption could have serious impacts, he warned. 

We’re told that local schools and other institutions and businesses have emergency preparedness and “shelter in place” plans.  Oh and know that our group of reporters even has a 30-pack of N95-grade anti-ash face masks.

Here’s hoping they stay in the box.

Kirk Siegler is reporting from Ecuador on a fellowship with the International Reporting Project (IRP). This post originally appeared on NPR's On the Road.

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