QUITO—An avalanche Sunday on a snow-capped Ecuadoran volcano killed at least 4 climbers and injured a fifth, officials reported.
The avalanche struck a group of about a dozen mountaineers while at an altitude of 6,100 meters (20,000 feet) on the dormant Chimborazo volcano, Ecuador's highest peak, in the central Andean region, the ECU911 security service said.
"The existence of 4 dead people (and) 1 injury is confirmed," the agency said, adding that "an avalanche struck the group."
It did not identify the climbers or their nationalities, but the peak attracts both Ecuadoran and foreign nationals.
Rescuers as well as police and military personnel specialized in high-elevation operations set up a command center at Chimborazo to coordinate operations.
The volcano, which rises 6,263 meters above sea level, is covered in snow and glaciers year-round and is located about 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Quito.
Ecuador's Environment Ministry temporarily closed the surrounding Chimborazo nature reserve, which is popular with tourists. Despite the volcano's constant snow, it is not frequented by skiers.
The volcano has seen a number of deadly accidents in recent decades.
In 2003, the remnants of an Ecuadoran plane that crashed in 1976 with 59 people on board were found by climbers about 700 meters from the summit.
The plane had collided into a stone wall on Chimborazo, and had been covered by an avalanche.
In 2015, the remains of 3 climbers, believed to have disappeared 20 to 30 years ago, were discovered at about 5,500 meters.
And in 1994, an avalanche left 10 people dead, including 1 Swiss and 6 French nationals.
Chimborazo last erupted sometime between the beginning of the fifth and end of the seventh century, according to the Geophysical Institute of Quito, which said the interval between eruptions is approximately 1,000 years.
The volcano's ice-capped summit, steep slope and its location near populated areas, such as the towns of Riobamba and Ambato, make it a high-risk area, according to the institute.
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