Ecuador's 'throat of fire' belches giant ash column

QUITO (AFP) - A volcano in central Ecuador spewed up a column of hot ash and smoke 10km high on Friday, increasing fears of an eruption.

Activity has been building at the Tungurahua volcano 130m south of the capital Quito since early February, and on Friday experts reported a loud explosion "that lasted for five minutes" and an expulsion of ash.

"For now ashfall is mild," said the National Secretariat for Risk Management on its Twitter account.

Tungurahua, which in the Quechua language means "throat of fire", has been erupting since 1999.

Tungurahua is one of eight active volcanoes in Ecuador, a country that is part of the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire which makes it prone to seismic and volcanic events.

In early February, a series of explosions rocked the volcano, spewing columns of ash into the air that reached as far as Quito.

In 2006, six people died in a village destroyed by lava from Tungurahua.

Multiple villages are located in the vicinity of the volcano, which stands at 5,029m.

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