Ecuador declares state of emergency over volcano

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Eruptions at the Cotopaxi volcano have sent plumes of ash and smoke into the sky

Ecuador President Rafael Correa has declared a state of emergency over increasing activity at the Cotopaxi volcano near the capital, Quito.

The declaration gives authorities more flexibility in using government funds to address the situation.

Officials evacuated several hundred people from nearby villages after the volcano began to erupt on Friday.

Cotopaxi is among the world's most dangerous volcanoes and is prone to fast-moving rock and mud flows.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Evacuated residents looked on from a safe distance as the volcano belched ash
Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Residents fled the zone around the volcano and soldiers were on the streets to assist
Image source, AP
Image caption,
Cotopaxi is considered one of the world's most dangerous volcanoes - its glacial cover means it is prone to fast-moving mud flows

Small eruptions have already shot ash more than 5km (three miles) into the sky, spreading fine grey powder over an area as far as the capital 50km (30 miles) to the north.

Authorities have restricted access to the park that surrounds the volcano and barred mountaineers from climbing the snow-capped peak.

Cotopaxi last had a major eruption in 1877.