Sunday, June 05, 2011

Volcano erupts in Chile


At least 3,500 people have been vacated in southern Chile and Argentina as one of the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanoes began to explode on Saturday. This latest eruption is the first in half a century for the Puyehue volcano. As of early Sunday morning, gas was growing nearly 10 km in the atmosphere, while residents were reporting ash covering the ground like snow. The city's airport was closed and local residents wore gas masks to protect them from the ash and stifle the strong stench of sulphur. The officials were trying to stop car traffic and ask that people to stay at home and close their doors and windows to prevent the volcanic ash from coming. Authorities issued a red alert, the maximum warning level, for the area and closed an Argentina-Chile border crossing.

Chile has some 2,000 volcanoes and one of the world’s largest volcanic chains after Indonesia. Some 50 to 60 have had recorded eruptions, and 500 are potentially active. The last eruption of Puyehue came in 1960. That event was preceded by a magnitude 9.5 earthquake. The thick cover of ash meant it was not immediately clear which of the Puyehye-Codron Caulle chain's four volcanoes had erupted. Witnesses reported seeing the volcano spitting molten rock, but no lava flow. This eruption comes just weeks after the Grimsvotn volcano erupted in Iceland, which sent plumes of Ash into the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. That volcano was blamed for widespread flight cancellations in Scotland and Berlin. Winds across the region will continue to blow towards the east, sending more ash towards southern Argentina as long as the volcano continues to erupt.