Ecuador's "Throat of Fire" volcano erupted today spewing ash that forced hundreds of residents to flee, authorities said.
Loud explosions shook the ground and rattled windows near the volcano, known as Tungurahua in the indigenous Quechua language, 81 miles southeast of Quito, officials said.
Vulcanologist Silvana Hidalgo said scientists are carefully monitoring the situation and have detected a small dip in activity.
"In these last few hours, what we've registered is a small decrease in volcanic activity regarding the energy with which the columns are expelled," she said.
Officials in the area said hundreds of families had evacuated, some voluntarily, while Ecuador's aviation authorities closed the airport in coastal Guayaquil and altered the routes of some flights to avoid the ash cloud.
Baños, a town popular with foreign and local tourists, was among the places evacuated voluntarily, officials said.
Tungurahua, a 16,500 ft volcano, has been classed as active since 1999 and had a strong eruption in 2008. It is one of eight active volcanoes in Ecuador.