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Ecuador declares state of emergency as volcano spews ash near capital city

  • A view of Cotopaxi volcano spewing ashes as seen from Latacunga, Ecuador, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015.  The Cotopaxi volcano near Ecuador's capital has spewed ash over a wide area in pre-dawn blasts. The volcano is considered one of the world's most dangerous volcanoes due to a glacial cover that makes it prone to mud flows and its proximity to a heavily populated area, but government scientists say that the snow-capped volcano doesn't seem to be on the verge of a major eruption. Its last major eruption was in 1877. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

    A view of Cotopaxi volcano spewing ashes as seen from Latacunga, Ecuador, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015. The Cotopaxi volcano near Ecuador's capital has spewed ash over a wide area in pre-dawn blasts. The volcano is considered one of the world's most dangerous volcanoes due to a glacial cover that makes it prone to mud flows and its proximity to a heavily populated area, but government scientists say that the snow-capped volcano doesn't seem to be on the verge of a major eruption. Its last major eruption was in 1877. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

  • Santa Rita residents sit in their makeshift shelter alongside a road after evacuating their homes, fearing a volcanic landslide from the nearby Cotopaxi volcano, which has blanketed nearby villages in ash, in El Chasqui, Ecuador, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015. Four blasts inside the volcano sent ash shooting more than two miles in the sky Friday, coating highways, homes and cars just south of Ecuador's capital with a fine gray powder. Cotopaxi is considered one of the world's most dangerous volcanoes due to a glacial cover that makes it prone to fast-moving volcanic rock and mud flows, or lahares, and its proximity to a heavily populated area. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

    Santa Rita residents sit in their makeshift shelter alongside a road after evacuating their homes, fearing a volcanic landslide from the nearby Cotopaxi volcano, which has blanketed nearby villages in ash, in El Chasqui, Ecuador, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015. Four blasts inside the volcano sent ash shooting more than two miles in the sky Friday, coating highways, homes and cars just south of Ecuador's capital with a fine gray powder. Cotopaxi is considered one of the world's most dangerous volcanoes due to a glacial cover that makes it prone to fast-moving volcanic rock and mud flows, or lahares, and its proximity to a heavily populated area. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

  • A village leader tries to quell fears of Santa Rita residents who set up camp alongside a road after a self-imposed evacuation from their homes, fearing a volcanic landslide from the nearby Cotopaxi volcano, pictured in background, in El Chasqui, Ecuador, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015. Four blasts inside the volcano sent ash shooting into the sky Friday, coating highways, homes and cars just south of Ecuador's capital with a fine gray powder. Cotopaxi is considered one of the world's most dangerous volcanoes due to a glacial cover that makes it prone to fast-moving volcanic rock and mud flows, or lahares, and its proximity to a heavily populated area. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

    A village leader tries to quell fears of Santa Rita residents who set up camp alongside a road after a self-imposed evacuation from their homes, fearing a volcanic landslide from the nearby Cotopaxi volcano, pictured in background, in El Chasqui, Ecuador, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015. Four blasts inside the volcano sent ash shooting into the sky Friday, coating highways, homes and cars just south of Ecuador's capital with a fine gray powder. Cotopaxi is considered one of the world's most dangerous volcanoes due to a glacial cover that makes it prone to fast-moving volcanic rock and mud flows, or lahares, and its proximity to a heavily populated area. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

President Rafael Correa declared a state of emergency Saturday over increasing activity in the Cotopaxi volcano near the capital of Quito, and officials evacuated a few hundred people as a precaution.

The decree gives authorities more flexibility in using government funds to deal with any problems.

Eruptions beginning Friday have shot ash more than two miles (five kilometers) into the sky, spreading fine gray powder over roads, homes and cars in the region as far as the capital 30 miles (50 kilometers) to the north.

Presidential legal secretary Alexis Mera said further ash explosions and some pyroclastic flows on the volcano's western slopes Saturday led officials to evacuate some nearby villages.

Cotopaxi is considered one of the world's most dangerous volcanoes due to a glacial cover that makes it prone to fast-moving volcanic rock and mud flows, known as lahares. The 19,600-foot (5,987-meter) snow-capped volcano also is close to the heavily populated area around Quito. It last had a major eruption in 1877.

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Authorities already had restricted access to the park that surrounds Cotopaxi and suspended ascents of the peak, which is popular with mountaineers.

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