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Chaitén update, 12 May 2008 12 May 2008

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A bulletin issued late yesterday by ONEMI summarizes the state of things at Chaitén volcano as follows:

Chaitén volcano maintains continual emanations of ash with a column between 5500 and 7000 metres in altitude and a plume trending east south-east towards the town of Futaleufú. At 16:30 today the column appeared dense with ashfalls on the Argentine side. The town of Futaleufú is not affected by this situation. The Meteorological Directorate of Chile reports that over the next few days predominantly western winds in the Central and South zones of the country will carry the ash towards Argentine territory.

At a press conference yesterday (11 May 2008), SERNAGEOMIN volcanologist Luis Lara said that the situation at Chaitén remains dangerous. It is unclear precisely how the eruption will develop, but ‘the persistence of a seven-kilometre-high column of pyroclastic material and a series of strong earthquakes’ means that the worst-case scenario ‘remains in force’. That worst-case scenario would involve the collapse of the eruption column, producing ‘an explosion of pyroclastic material which would fall at 200 kilometres per hour upon the valleys and water-courses of Chaitén, destroying everything in its path’ (Canal13.cl). Since the eruption began on 2 May, reported Lara, there have been continual tremors around the volcano of between two and three on the Mercalli scale (I believe Chile uses the Modified Mercalli Scale, although I am open to correction on this), with epicentres from five to ten kilometres deep. ‘Only if in the coming days we see a significant reduction of the eruptive column and are no longer registering seismicity of the kind we are seeing currently’, Lara told the Italian news agency Ansalatina, ‘will we consider that the possibility of the worst-case scenario has no validity’.

The Chilean Government minister responsible for the crisis has called Chaitén ‘the greatest and most complex natural emergency’ in Chile’s history: ‘The fundamental problem with this emergency is uncertainty. We have a volcano which has been active for eight days and has not ceased its activity. It’s like an oven that’s building up pressure and constantly hurling out ash’. Fog and rainclouds have obscured Chaitén from view over the past few days so no direct observations have been possible. SERNAGEOMIN is installing additional monitoring equipment around the volcano and maintaining a close watch on its activity (La Jornada).

The town of Puerto Montt, about 200 kilometres north of the volcano, has become the centre for the Government’s evacuation and relief operations. Food and other supplies are being distributed from military trucks to the evacuees of Chaitén, Futaleufú and surrounding areas:

‘I have been given winter squash, bananas, carrots, water. I think I can last out for four or five days’, Augusto Ampuero, a farmer who was evacuated from Chaitén, the town nearest the volcano, told Reuters. He is being looked after, with his family, by his sister who lives in Puerto Montt. ‘I left my boat, my animals and my home behind, and I don’t know what is going to happen to us’. (Reuters)

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has today published a bulletin covering the relief operation at Chaitén and providing some general background information (although it is not up to date with the latest developments). It can be accessed via ReliefWeb, or through this direct link (PDF).

For all our Chaitén coverage: Chaitén << The Volcanism Blog

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Chaitén – summary information for Chaitén (1508-41)
ONEMI, Oficina Nacional de Emergencia – Chilean government emergencies office (Spanish)
SERNAGEOMIN – volcanology information from the Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería, Chile (Spanish)

News
Sernageomin: peligro de colapso del Chaitén sigue latente – Canal13.cl, 11 May 2008 (Spanish)
Persiste peligro de colapso por volcán Chaitén, experto – Ansalatina, 11 May 2008 (Spanish)
Chaitén causa la mayor emergencia en la historiaLa Jornada (Mexico), 11 May 2008 (Spanish)
Chile aumenta vigilancia en volcán Chaitén – Reuters América Latina, 11 May 2008 (Spanish)

The Volcanism Blog

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Comments

1. Geology News » Geology Picture of the Day - Chaitén Eruption - 12 May 2008

[…] at the beginning of this month in Chile). Ralph Harrington at The Volcanism Blog has been providing wonderful updates on the […]

2. Israel Martinez V. - 13 May 2008

Would be the worst global warming effects? They are starting right now? First this unusual eruption and then the china earthquake! The global warming will cause to increase internal magma pressure so unusual activity like this will occur. But I think at this time the worst has ended, no tsunami or earthquake will happen, so don’t worry.
Greetings from argentina.
DJ Avionics – Trance Musician
Independent Phisycs Researchs


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