Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano erupted 6 March, spewing smoke and ash high into the air in several fiery explosions. Volcanologists began registering increased activity at Tungurahua on 27 February and noted the tremors and eruptions intensified in ensuing days. The Secretariat of Risk Management issued an orange alert at that point.

The volcano was shrouded in clouds for most of last week, but volcanologists said the ash column above the volcano at reached a 4000m high. The country's Geophysical Institute said Tungurahua has erupted continually over the past 24 hours with ash column reaching up to 2,500m.

In the El Manzano community, in the shadow of the restive volcano, residents covered their faces as they walked outdoors. Farmer Jose Morocho checked on his animals and said the eruptions had been relentless.

"Since 5 o'clock in the afternoon yesterday, we have had an attack from the earth like never before. It has rained down on us up to sunrise. It has rained earth and so now, since we have nowhere to go, we must put up with whatever comes," Morocho said.

Tungurahua stands at a towering 5,023m high and lies some 135km south of the capital city of Quito. Tungurahua, which means "Throat of Fire" in the local Quechua language, has been classified as active since 1999. Ecuador has 84 volcanoes on the mainland in the Andes and Amazon region and three in the Galapagos Islands. Of the 84, 24 are classified as erupting, active or potentially active.