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The United States Geological Survey (USGS) recently reported that activity around the western flank of Tungurahua could be destabilised. The volcano is located around 85 miles away from the Andes mountains in Ecuador and its name derives from the indigenous Quechua people, who call it the ‘Throat of Fire’. A study from the journal Earth & Planetary Science Letters exposed the fears of experts who say they are seriously concerned about whether the giant volcano will collapse.
According to Newsweek, who published an article on the fears earlier this year, the volcano has been frequently active since 1999.
Since then, some eruptions have forced the evacuation of nearby towns, with approximately 25,000 people moved out of the region.
Another eruption, around 3,000 years ago, also led to the partial collapse of its western flank.
Experts suggest the collapse spread debris from the volcano over a patch of land about 30 square miles in size.
Since then, scientists say that Tungurahua has steadily rebuilt itself.
It now stands at 16,500 foot in height and last erupted in February, 2014.
However, recent activity within the volcano has led to “significant deformation of its surface”.
James Hickey, lead author of the study from the University of Exeter, claimed the volcano is continuing to degrade.
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He wrote: “Using satellite data we have observed very rapid deformation of Tungurahua’s west flank, which our research suggests is caused by imbalances between magma being supplied and magma being erupted.
“[The west flank of the volcano] was uplifted by roughly 3.5 centimetres [1.38 inches] over a three-week period, while the other flanks remained stable.
“Magma supply is one of a number of factors that can cause or contribute to volcanic flank instability, so while there is a risk of possible flank collapse, the uncertainty of these natural systems also means it could remain stable.
“However, it’s definitely one to keep an eye on in the future.”
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He added: “The damage a potential flank collapse could have on the surrounding area depends on how the volcano continues to behave, this is why it is important that scientists continue to keep a close eye on the volcano and this is exactly what the Instituto Geofísico in Ecuador are doing.”
Many theories on where the volcano gets its name from have emerged in recent decades.
Along with its indigenous title, it has also been called ‘The Black Giant’ and in other local mythology it is also referred to as Mother Tungurahua.
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