QUITO -- Volcano Tungurahua in central Ecuador has remained highly active in more than three weeks after it first began showering the nearby region with ash, the National Polytechnic's Geophysics Institute said in a statement Monday.

The 5,029-km mountain emitted a new burst of gas and columns of smoke earlier Monday, extending its increased activity starting on Jan. 5.

In 2006, the volcano killed six people and destroyed thousands of hectares of crops during eruptions of hot ash that lasted through July and August.

Authorities in Banos, a town at the base of the volcano, said trade and tourism are continuing as normal despite the eruption. The area also experienced strong rains on Sunday night and Monday morning, but roads are now clear.

"The volcano's activity has not really seen major changes. It continues to be high, characterized by constant gas and ash emission, and the number of the explosions persists," said Santiago Arellano, from the Guadalupe monitoring station.

He said the mountain was also roaring, something which had attracted tourists rather than scaring them away. Tourists had also been attracted by a good climate for viewing the mountain on Saturday and early Sunday.