Chile’s Calbuco volcano eruption forced 4,000 to evacuate

Photos show fire, lightning and ash-clogged streets in Chile after volcanic eruption

On April 22, Calbuco in southern Chile erupted in dramatic fashion — sending a massive plume of ash more than 12 miles into the air.

No one saw this coming. The volcano had been quiet for the last 42 years before erupting twice in the span of a few hours, all with just 15 minutes of warning beforehand. Some 4,000 residents in the nearby town of Puerto Montt and surrounding areas were evacuated. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

The eruption caused a column of smoke over ten miles high. Authorities declared a red alert and ordered the evacuation of around 1500 residents in the area surrounding the volcano.

About 7 p.m. local time, two earthquakes associated with fracturing of rock occurred. The largest happened less than 3 miles east of the main crater, with a magnitude of 3, officials said in a 9 p.m. update. An additional “minor” eruption is possible, officials said.

Trevor Moffat who lives in Ensenada – some six miles from the volcano – said the eruption yesterday happened without warning. Volcano Calbuco’s last major eruption happened in 1961, with a weak eruption following in 1972.

He said: ‘It sounded like a big tractor trailer passing by the road, rattling and shaking, guttural rumbling … we left everything there, grabbed my kid, my dog, got in the car with my wife.

Television pictures showed a spectacular mushroom-shaped column billowing into the sky with occasional lighting bolts shooting through it. The eruption was seen up to 100 miles away in neighbouring Argentina.

Derek Way, a resident of Puerto Varas, said: ‘There are a lot of people out in the streets, many heading to the gas stations to fill up on gas. A friend told me to fill everything we have with water.’

Chile, on the Pacific ‘Rim of Fire’, has the second largest chain of volcanoes in the world after Indonesia, including around 500 that are potentially active.

Volcano could erupt again, possibly within hours, officials say

The country’s National Service of Geology and Mining said Thursday that the region remains on red alert, meaning there could be a third eruption within hours. President Michelle Bachelet has warned the volcano could soon emit lava. About 5,000 residents were evacuated, and towns within a 13-mile radius of the volcano were declared “exclusion zones.”

No injuries or deaths were reported. A mountain climber reported missing earlier had been found, officials said. A government spokeswoman identified the hiker as 21-year-old Waldo Flores. Interior Undersecretary Mahmud Aleuy tweeted that Flores had been found by a local. He was then taken to a hospital to be checked, the spokeswoman said.

Calbuco had been dormant for more than 40 years

According to the Associated Press, the Calbuco volcano hasn’t erupted since 1972. It erupted violently and without warning Wednesday afternoon, sending a massive column of ash and smoke into the air.

Chile’s president has declared a state of emergency
President Bachelet declared a state of emergency and was scheduled to travel to the region Thursday.

Officials said they did not anticipate any water, food or fuel shortages. Volcanic ash can contain heavy metals and toxic substances such as arsenic. According to a statement from the Ministry of the Interior, the region draws its drinking water from underground sources.

If lava begins to flow, however, it could melt snowpacks in the region and bring the threat of landslides or rising rivers to surrounding towns.

Ash fell nearly 70 miles away

Volcanic ash was falling in the Argentine resort city of Bariloche, about 68 miles east of Calbuco, the Associated Press reported. Officials there were analyzing the ash to see if it posed a threat to drinking water.

The eruption rained down as much as 15 to 20 inches of ash in the nearby town of Ensenada, officials said, closing schools and canceling flights. Several surrounding towns, including Alerce, Colonia Rio Sur and Correntos, were also evacuated.

Photos of Volcanic eruption in Chile

Volcano erupting right now in Calbuco, Chile. Source: IMGUR
Volcano erupting right now in Calbuco, Chile. Source: IMGUR
Photo by Marcelo Utreras (500px)
Aftermath: The two violent explosions shot billions of cubic metres of ash into the atmosphere, caking nearby localities like La Ensenada in mounds of abrasive soot
Aftermath: The two violent explosions shot billions of cubic metres of ash into the atmosphere, caking nearby localities like La Ensenada in mounds of abrasive soot

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