The Ubinas volcano in southern Peru is spewing out clouds of gas and sulphur and threatening about 3 500 local inhabitants with acid rain, officials said.
Local authorities on Thursday declared a state of emergency in the remote area 900km south of the capital, Lima, allowing evacuation plans to go into effect.
Three weeks after the 5 672m-high volcano began erupting, teams of physicians and geologists have been sent to the area to monitor the volcanic activity and the health risks it brings.
Ash and gas emissions from the volcano have reached five villages within a 6km radius, causing eye and breathing problems to its inhabitants.
”People are nervous and the breathing masks that have been distributed are not enough,” the Governor of the region, Critila Constantidines, said.
”You can hear muffled explosions and see pieces of red-hot lava inside the volcano’s crater that is expanding,” he added.
”It’s dangerous … today there is less smoke and ash but all the signs are that a dome of incandescent lava is building,” Leonidas Ocola, of Peru’s Geophysics Institute, said on Thursday.
About 20 llamas in the region have been found dead after eating grass that turned poisonous with the ash and fumes from the volcano, national television said.
”Ubinas has not erupted recently,” said geologist Laurence Audin, of the Research and Development Institute. ”Only once, in the 1500s, and another time around 1000 AD.” — Sapa-AFP