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Ecuador declares emergency as volcano near capital spews ash

Quito: President Rafael Correa has declared a state of emergency over increasing activity in the Cotopaxi volcano near the capital of Quito, and officials evacuated a few hundred people as a precaution.

The decree gives authorities more flexibility in using government funds to deal with any problems. Eruptions beginning Friday have shot ash more than two miles (five kilometres) into the sky, spreading fine gray powder over roads, homes and cars in the region as far as the capital 30 miles (50 kilometres) to the north.

Presidential legal secretary Alexis Mera said further ash explosions and some pyroclastic flows on the volcano’s western slopes on Saturday led officials to evacuate some nearby villages.

Cotopaxi is considered one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes due to a glacial cover that makes it prone to fast-moving volcanic rock and mud flows, known as lahares. The 19,600-foot (5,987-meter) snow-capped volcano also is close to the heavily populated area around Quito. It last had a major eruption in 1877. Authorities already had restricted access to the park that surrounds Cotopaxi and suspended ascents of the peak, which is popular with mountaineers.