December 27, 2008

Chaiten Volcano Still A Threat

The Chaiten Volcano, which erupted in May for the first time in thousands of years, was said by Chile's government on Friday to still not be safe and that a decision regarding the future of the town of Chaiten would be made in the coming days,

The volcano is forcing 7,000 residents to evacuate.  It is located only six miles from the town and started to spew ash, gas and molten rock on May 2.

For weeks, constant eruptions were forcing a cloud of debris to keep aloft which soared as high as 20 miles into the air.  This even covered neighboring town in Argentina with volcanic ash.

"We received the latest report from the Universidad Catolica ... and the only thing I can tell you is that the volcano is exactly as dangerous as it was before," Interior Minister Edmundo Perez-Yoma told reporters.

"We were hoping we might have better news, but unfortunately we don't."

Many locals have said they want to return to their homes in Chaiten, even though the government has not yet dismissed the idea of relocating the small town and making the whole area a no-go zone for years to come.

"The volcano is still active," Perez-Yoma said. "Given the latest definitive information, we will be making a decision in the coming days."

After Indonesia, Chile has the second largest and most active chain of volcanoes in the world.

About 90 percent of Chaiten was covered with volcanic ash in May, causing nearby rivers to breach their banks.


Image Caption: Image of the ash cloud from 2008 eruption stretching into San Jorge Basin in the Atlantic Ocean. MODIS, 2008-05-03.