Censorship of the white Grim Reaper, Cotopaxi
I stand on a rooftop in Latacunga, Ecuador, this morning watching as dark smoke billows from the summit of Cotopaxi, a great cloud of ash extends west over the town of Santa Rita where I stayed two days ago.
A massive slab of white ice is visible, the glacier – the white Grim Reaper. It is that ice sheet that partially melted from the hot rocks and gas during the last eruption 138 years ago and delivered a cataclysmic mudflow that wiped out the town where I slept last night.
For the past two days I have been visiting communities below the summit, listening to the stories of locals that have chosen to stay or return to their homes. They have heard tales of the last eruption, before their time, but they don’t fully understand the speed at which the lava, rocks and ash will come if there is a major eruption.
The Government, instead of educating, has chosen to censor the media. News outlets can only report official government bulletins. Just a bulletin a day has been issued about the daily small eruptions. There is no use of the media to educate and prepare these communities.
Smoke has been visible erupting from Cotopaxi for the past 24 hours but you wouldn’t know if from watching the media. The Government is yet to provide any official bulletin about the latest ongoing activity.
Ignore it and it will go away? Ignore it and tens of thousand of people may die.
The volcano rumbled for four months before last week’s major eruptions. Four months that the Government, police and emergency services could have been educating, developing contingency and evacuation plans, installing alarms, developing networks. But no, that started after Friday and Saturday’s major eruptions.
So I wrote my story, but I should have warned those that I talked to. If it erupts, they must go. There is no time for their cows, their sheep. They must go.