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Situation Report - 18 August 2006

The Tunguarahua volcano in Ecuador erupted on August 16th, and continued overnight before diminishing the following day.  One death has been reported and four people are missing. Three people have been treated for various degrees of burns and approximately 50 persons have received medical attention for minor traumas, respiratory problems or for psychological counselling. About 4,000 people have been evacuated from the slopes of the Tungurahua volcano. 80 people from the city of Baños have been relocated to a shelter in Mera, in the Pastaza province.  Most of the evacuated persons are housed with relatives or friends. 200 volunteers are assisting the shelters.  It is estimated that 676,000 people (out of a total population of 930,000 people) may be affected, within the provinces of Chimborazo and Tunguarahua.
Massive clouds of ash, steam and gas (approximately 8 km of altitude), as well as abundant lava and pyroclastic flows descended through Achupashal, Cusúa, Mandur, Bascún, Juive Grande and La Hacienda rifts.  The villages of Chilibu, Choglontuz and Palitagua are reported to have been destroyed.  Volcanic material was also reported in Baños and has blocked the rivers Chambo and Puela producing a dam and putting several communities at risk and cutting off the roads between  Baños  and Riobamba and Ambato.   The provinces of Los Ríos and Bolívar have also been severely affected by ash fall. The airports of Guayaquil and Cuenca have closed its operations.

Health Sector

The Health Emergency Operations Centers have activated their emergency plans in both provinces.  Medical teams have been deployed to the shelters. Local health services have been reinforced to attend to the affected population.  Injured persons have been treated and rapid needs assessments have been completed and medical teams have been deployed with masks and water for the shelters.
A PAHO technical mission has been dispatched to the provinces to help with the rapid response, and to follow up on the Rapid Needs Assessment for health.   The mission will integrate with the UNETE team and other organizations to channel health needs requirements (masks, portable water analysis).

National Response

The national response has been significant and the country appears to be on top of the situation, thanks to years of disaster planning and training by PAHO which has a resident technical officer in disaster response based at the PAHO office in Quito.  The government has decreed a “Disaster Zone” in Tungurahua and Chimborazo provinces and has transferred 2 million dollars for emergency work across the local government offices. This is in addition to the 4.5 million dollars already given for emergency response due to the eruption on July 14th.
The national response continues to be addressed by the Provincial Emergency Operation Committees in Tungurahua and Chimborazo with the support of the National Police, the Army and authorities.
Cantonal Emergency Operation Committees (COEs) are still activated in Tisaleo, Cevallos, Quero, Mocha, Pelileo, and Baños in Tungurahua, and Penipe and Guano in Chimborazo.  The Civil Defense is providing broad support to the COEs and to the local Civil Defense in the affected areas.

At this time, assistance in the evaluation of water systems to determine the level of contamination and for medical supplies (antibiotics, analgesics, eye drops, skin creams) and sundries, including requests for 600,000 masks to protect citizens from the toxic gases, are mostly being met by local, provincial and national resources.


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