Analysis of Tungurahua Volcano evacuation of Banos Ecuador 1999

Posted on October 17, 2014 • Filed under: Ecuador, Enviromental Issues

, 2002, 26(1): 28–48
Overseas Development Institute, 2002.
Published by Blackwell Publishers, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
Community Resilience and Volcano Hazard: The Eruption of Tungurahua and Evacuation of the
Faldas in Ecuador Graham A. Tobin Linda M. Whiteford Dept of Geography Dept of Anthropology
University of South University

Official response to explosive volcano hazards usually involves evacuation of local inhabitants to safe shelters. Enforcement is often difficult and problems can be exacerbated when major eruptions do not ensue. Families are deprived of livelihoods and pressure to return to hazardous areas builds. Concomitantly, prevailing socio-economic and political conditions limit activities and can influence vulnerability. This paper addresses these issues, examining an ongoing volcano hazard (Tungurahua) in
Ecuador where contextual realities significantly constrain responses. Fieldwork involved interviewing government officials, selecting focus groups and conducting surveys of evacuees in four locations: a temporary shelter, a permanent resettlement, with returnees and with a control group. Differences in perceptions of risk and health conditions, and in the potential for economic recovery were found among groups with different evacuation experiences. The long-term goal is to develop a model of community resilience in long-term stress environments.

Mitigation model:


strategies and concerns
The primary official response to the volcanic eruption in October 1999 was to evacuate a large proportion of the population living in the faldas of Tungurahua. The relative merits of this strategy were assessed from the perspective of the mitigation model outlined in Figure 1. It was clear that there were mixed views on the success of the evacuation and the capabilities of the agencies involved. From the military and government perspective, the evacuation was a success. Over 26,000 people had been evacuated and no one was injured by volcanic activity (personal communication with Ecuador Civil Defense, 2000). The perspective of residents from Tungurahua was very different. Groups here invariably expressed strong negative sentiments about how the evacuation had been carried out, speaking most critically of the military intervention, which would later lead to questions over the leadership, and support mechanisms associated with the evacuation strategy. For example, over 70 per cent of the respondents living in the albergues (shelters) and those from Baños, and 50 per cent of those living in the resettlement area were forced to evacuate by the military (Table 2). The focus group from Baños was particularly vociferous about the military intervention, stating ‘They killed our chickens and cooked in our homes’. Not surprisingly, constituency support diminished as concerns over the military action escalated during the weeks following the evacuation and rumours of looting and burglaries of homes began to circulate. The
situation was exacerbated when a Chilean television company showed evidence of looting by the soldiers (Chile television production broadcast 1999/2000). This culminated in conflicts between the people and the military and eventually there was a mass movement back into Baños as military barricades were over-run (Ecuatoriana television production shown in Ecuador in 2000).
Respondents expressed different opinions about the evacuation (Tables 2 and 3). Over 73 per cent of Colegio Bolivar and Cubijies residents and 77 per cent of Quimiag resettlement respondents thought that the evacuation was necessary, compared with only 52 per cent of the Baños residents. The difference between these perceptions was not surprising given that Baños residents had already returned to their homes. On the other hand, the high response by others is indicative of the initial fear that existed in October 1999. Over 80 per cent in Colegio Bolivar, 68 per cent in Quimiag and 55 per cent in Baños reported receiving some help in evacuating. The situation for the evacuees, however, was not conducive to staying with over 80 per cent expressing a desire to return. On the other hand, the mitigation had effectively reduced both exposure and risk. Read Paper

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