Sangay Volcano erupts Again: Upano River overflows, roads closed, and preventive measures issued in Ecuador

The latest developments of the constantly active Sangay volcano. Authorities issue road closures and preventive measures due to lahar-caused flooding on the Upano river.
  1. Sangay volcano in southern Ecuador continues to show eruptive activity, causing lahars to descend and overflow the Upano river, leading to the closure of the Macas-Puyo road.
  2. The National Service of Risks and Emergencies has recommended preventive measures for citizens, and the Ministry of Transportation and Public Works is evaluating temporary road closures and alternative routes.
  3. The Geophysical Institute has categorized Sangay’s activity as a yellow alert, meaning there is a warning of threat activation. The Risk Service has asked the population to stay informed and take preventive measures.

Sangay volcano, the last in southern Ecuador, located in the Cordillera Real in the Amazonian province of Morona Santiago, maintains its eruptive activity. Last weekend, according to the Geophysical Institute of the National Polytechnic School, the institution in charge of monitoring volcanoes in Ecuador, the descent of lahars was registered, which, added to the heavy rains, caused the Upano river to overflow. The authorities of the National Service of Risks and Emergencies have recommended the closure of the Macas-Puyo road and have recommended some preventive measures for the citizens.

In June 2022, the Sangay volcano in Ecuador caused a slight ash fall and vibrations in several towns in Guayas and Azuay, according to the state Geophysical Institute. The atmospheric conditions allowed the noises and vibrations to be heard in towns like Guayaquil, Samborondón, and Salitre. The columns of ash reached between 600 and 2,400 meters above the level of the crater. No damages from the ash fall were recorded last June, and the Sangay alert remained yellow.

Just two months after, in August 2022, the ash from the Sangay volcano, which increased its activity, has affected two towns in the Andes of Ecuador and is moving toward the port city of Guayaquil. The ash cloud has already caused ashfall in Cebadas and Palmira in the province of Chimborazo. The Ecuadorian National Risk Management Service (SNGR) reported an increase in internal and superficial activity of the volcano and increased seismic energy. The Geophysical Institute reported the emission of an important lava flow. The ash cloud reached two kilometers in height.

Now, the problems are the lahars, technically known as the avalanche of volcanic products such as rocks, mud, or other debris, descended through the ravines of the volcano and followed the Upano riverbed to continue its trajectory. This caused the damming of the river, which flooded 240 linear meters of the Macas-Puyo road.

According to the National Risk and Emergency Service, the damming of the Upano river exceeded the accumulated material from the lahars. However, due to the absence of rain last Sunday, its flow began to release the material within normal parameters.

The National Police prevented vehicles from passing through the road while officials of the Risk Service monitored the sector. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Transportation and Public Works stated that together with the Government of Morona Santiago and the National Police, they are analyzing actions to close the Macas-Puyo road temporarily. Drivers were advised to use the alternate Sucúa-Seipa-Sevilla road.

Meanwhile, the technical team of the Ministry of Transportation and the Army Corps of Engineers are evaluating the possibility of setting up a provisional crossing when the river flow decreases.

As part of the immediate response measures activated by the authorities, the personnel of the Army Corps of Engineers and other private companies working in the area was evacuated.

The Geophysical Institute, in its most recent report on the volcano, has indicated that in case of heavy rains, secondary lahars could be generated in the Volcan and Upano rivers and other tributaries of the Amazon. Sangay’s volcanic activity has been categorized within the yellow alert, which means “warning of threat activation.” It implies the mobilization of provincial and local emergency operations committees to respond to any eventuality.

The overflow of the Upano River, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, occurred as a result of lahars that descended from the Sangay volcano.
The overflow of the Upano River in the Ecuadorian Amazon occurred due to lahars descending from the Sangay volcano.

The Risk Service has asked the population to be informed by official sources and to take into account certain preventive measures, among which it suggested: staying away from the banks of the Upano river, being attentive to the provisions issued by the competent local authorities, to disconnect all electrical appliances if they are near the river, to stay away from poles with electrical wiring in flooded areas and to seek high places in case of flooding.

Sangay is one of the most active volcanoes in Ecuador. Its eruptive activity has been constant since 1628. The colossus is formed by a strato-volcano, a type of conical volcano of great height, with three craters aligned along the summit.

According to information from the Geophysical Institute, in the last eruptive period of Sangay, which would have started in 1628, the volcano emitted a large column of ash that went towards the northwest of the country up to 50 km away, affecting the city of Riobamba, in the Ecuadorian Andes.

Thanks to the explorations of researchers, Andean climbers, and overflights conducted by the Geophysical Institute for monitoring purposes, it is known that the volcano commonly generates pyroclastic flows, considered the most destructive phenomenon of volcanoes because they are composed of ash and rocks of various sizes capable of flowing at high temperatures and speeds; lava flows and lahars.