Undulating little streets, beautiful colonial buildings and lavishly decorated churches where the gold leaf and the kitsch almost hurt the eyes: that is the historic centre of Quito, Ecuador's capital. If you zoom out, as if on Google Earth, you see the city is draped between high volcanoes with snowy peaks. They follow the Andes' mountain range in a pendulum that traverses Ecuador from north to south and dots the country with 84 volcanoes. It is a fairy-tale location, but one that contains the seeds of a nightmare.
Should one of Quito's volcanoes erupt, it would affect the entire city. The dangers of ashes, mudslides and even catapulted pieces of glacier would just be the beginning. An eruption would also disrupt food supply. The people of Quito get 62 percent of their food from the southern areas.