Infrastructure impacts, management and adaptations to eruptions at Volcan Tungurahua, Ecuador, 1999-2010

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Sword-Daniels, V.; Wardman, J.; Stewart, C.; Wilson, T.; Johnston, D.M.; Rossetto, T. 2011 Infrastructure impacts, management and adaptations to eruptions at Volcan Tungurahua, Ecuador, 1999-2010. Lower Hutt, N.Z.: GNS Science. GNS Science report 2011/24 68 p.

Abstract: This report summarises observations made on a field visit to areas affected by the May 2010 eruption of Volcan Tungurahua, Ecuador. The focus of this trip, carried out in September 2010 by a field team from the University of Canterbury and University College London, was to investigate both direct and indirect effects of ashfall on critical infrastructure, and the management of ashfall events. In particular we paid attention to less-studied areas of interest including electrical power and healthcare systems. All infrastructure topics explored aspects of resilience and adaptation, in the context of ongoing volcanic unrest at Tungurahua since 1999. Research methods were largely qualitative and included semi-structured interviews, observation, water testing and informal conversations and meetings with locals. A good overview of ashfall impacts on electricity networks, healthcare services and emergency management issues was achieved during the trip. The information gathered adds to our knowledge of the possible effects of volcanic ashfall on infrastructure and public services. Further insights into impacts of water, wastewater, transportation and agriculture were gained. Overall, infrastructure seemed to function well during the 2010 eruption, with only minor problems reported. However, the May 2010 eruption generated only minor ashfalls (a few mm) in most locations. Over the past 11 years of volcanic unrest, other events have caused more serious impacts, particularly a VEI 3 eruption on 16-17 August 2006. Electrical supplies suffered few problems, with no reports of electrical flashover from ashfalls. Problems arising from contamination of open water supplies have led to an initiative to cover water supplies. In the transport sector, the 2010 eruption resulted in a two-day closure of Guayaquil international airport due to risks to aircraft. Roads in the Tungurahua region have been frequently damaged by lahars over the past 11 years. The 2010 eruption caused partial damage to 3740 ha of crops. Far more severe, although localised, damage to crops, livestock and rural communities was caused by the August 2006 eruption. (auth/DG)