1,200 evacuated after increased activity at Ecuadorean volcano

Increased seismic activity at an Andean volcano has prompted the evacuation of 1,200 Ecuadorean villagers, who venture home only to tend crops during the day, a local official said Sunday. Ten villages have been evacuated to sleep in shelters "to avoid people from being near the volcano," said Juan Salazar, mayor of Penipe, one of the highland hamlets near the base of the volcano, 135 kilometers south of the Ecuadorean capital of Quito. The Tungurahua volcano was registering near-constant seismic activity after seven hours of tremors rattled windows Saturday morning, showing an intense glow in its crater and spewing a fine coat of ash, the country's Geophysics Institute said in a statement posted on its Web site. "We can't rule out at this moment that the volcano may evolve in coming weeks from the current situation to a much more explosive level," the Geophysics Institute warned.