AREQUIPA, Peru, Apr 19 (Reuters) At least 1,000 people have suffered respiratory problems from a tower of ash spewing from the Ubinas volcano in southern Peru, and 20 llamas have died after eating poisoned grass, a local official said today.
Ubinas, in the Moquegua region 550 miles (900 km) south of Lima, has been belching for much of the month and this week sent smoke and ash 2,600 feet (800 meters) into the air, spreading a thick carpet of ash on areas north of the volcano.
Officials said the volcano continued to spit out ash and smoke today, and the wind was carrying it north.
''Approximately 1,000 people from several small towns north of the volcano have had breathing problems and itching eyes from the sulfur in the rain of ash,'' Agustin Quispe, mayor of the town of San Juan de Tarucani de Arequipa, one of the towns north of the volcano affected by ash, told reporters.
In recorded history, Ubinas has never had a lava eruption, according to experts at the university of Arequipa in southern Peru.
Quispe said ash carried north by the wind had affected five towns that are within six miles (10 km) of the volcano. He also said 20 llamas in his village died from eating ''contaminated grasses.'' In the hamlet of Querapi, home to 42 farming families three miles (4.5 km) from the 18,700 foot (5,670 meter)-high volcano, Civil Defense authorities distributed gas masks and recommended evacuation earlier this week.
But the people of Querapi were reluctant to leave despite the yellow alert declared by Civil Defense.
REUTERS SC PM0351