Ecuadoran authorities say 110 families have been evacuated from the vicinity of the Tungurahua volcano, which has been spewing molten rock, ash and lava since the weekend.

Spokeswoman Mercedes Taipe of Ecuador's Geophysics Institute says a column of vapor and ash up to 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) high has characterized the moderate-to-strong eruption.

She said Tuesday that a half-dozen villages are being showered in ash. She had no immediate estimate on economic damage to local farming.

The 16,48-foot (5,023-meter) volcano 84 miles (135 kilometers) southeast of Quito has been active since 1999.

In July and August of 2006 eruptions of Tungurahua killed at least four people, left two missing and forced the evacuation of thousands.

Another eruption in December of 2010 caused Ecuador's National Agency of Risk Control to issue a "red alert", later downgraded to orange. The Ecuadorean Institute for Geophysics reported a rapid increase in seismic activity, a number of explosions and an ash cloud reaching 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) in height.

The name Tungurahua is a combination of the Quichua tunguri (throat) andrahua (fire) meaning "Throat of Fire" and is also known as "The Black Giant" and, in local indigenous mythology it is allegedly referred to as Mama Tungurahua ("Mother Tungurahua").

The mountain was first climbed by German  volcanologist Alphons Stübel along with Eusebio Rodruguez in February of 1873 during his seven-year expedition of South America.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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