By Mary Forgione
8:22 PM EST, December 17, 2012
The Tungurahua volcano in central Ecuador spewed gas and ash Monday, prompting the government to issue an alert and the evacuation of villages near the volcano.
The message singled out the tourist town of Banos and areas where voluntary evacuations are under way in Cusúa, Juive Grander and Chico. It stressed the need for travelers to have an evacuation plan if conditions become more dangerous.
"Past eruptions have affected air travel in Ecuador," the message reads in part. "U.S. citizens planning to fly to, from, or within Ecuador should monitor news outlets and have a plan in the event of flight cancellations."
Media reports say a series of explosions overnight were recorded at the volcano, which started showing signs of activity last week. Ecuador's Secretary of Risk Management on Monday raised the alert level to orange, the second-highest level.
Embassy updates are available by calling (888) 407-4747 within the U.S. or (202) 501-4444 outside the country.
A similar embassy message was issued Aug. 21 when the volcano showed signs of seismic activity. Eruptions of Tungurahua closed airports in Guayaquil and Quito in 2010 and took at least seven lives and destroyed three villages in 2006, a media report says.
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