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Chile establishes permanent co-ordination system for seismic and volcanic monitoring 4 February 2009

Posted by admin in Chaitén, Chile, natural hazards, volcano monitoring, volcanology.
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Among the consequences of the Chaitén eruption has been renewed attention in Chile to the question of volcanic hazard monitoring and communication. Volcano monitoring in Chile is the responsibility of the Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (SERNAGEOMIN). Seven Chilean volcanoes are currently monitored on a permanent basis: Lonquimay, Llaima, Villarrica, Mocho-Choshuenco, Osorno, Calbuco, and (since it erupted) Chaitén. Chile has one volcanological observatory, the Observatorio Volcanológico de los Andes del Sur (OVDAS), located in the central-southern city of Temuco and operated by SERNAGEOMIN.

The Chaitén eruption has highlighted some long-standing and long-disregarded problems with volcano monitoring in Chile: lack of finance, staffing and infrastructure, inadequate volcanic hazard research, poor co-ordination and co-operation between the responsible authorities, poor public communication. Since last year, however, there has been a new drive to improve things from within the Chilean government and parliament, and with assistance from the United States Geological Service through the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program the situation is changing for the better. It is to be hoped that the impetus will be maintained.

On 28 January 2009 the President of Chile, Michele Bachelet, signed a decree establishing a Sistema de Coordinación Permanente de Procesos de Monitoreo Sísmico y Volcánico, a ‘Permanent Co-ordination System for Seismic and Volcanic Monitoring’. The President described this as ‘one more step in the institutional strengthening of the management of natural hazards’ in Chile, alongside the development of relevant scientific knowledge and skills, hazard research and the better dissemination of information. The next step is a draft law, to be put before parliament in March, to transform the present Oficina Nacional de Emergencia (ONEMI) into a more capable Dirección Nacional de Protección Civil, National Civil Protection Directorate, ‘with greater capacities and co-ordinated facilities for responding to disasters’. It seems that the intention is to make this beefed-up ONEMI, freed from the control of the Ministry of the Interior, into the lead state agency for emergency response.

ONEMI has the lead role at present in the development of the co-ordinated seismic and volcanic monitoring system established by this decree, bringing together the capabilities and operations of ONEMI’s own scientists, SERNAGEOMIN, the Chilean universities, and the Chilean Navy’s hydrographic and oceanographic services. SERNAGEOMIN and the Red Sismológica Nacional (National Seismological Network) are to be enlarged and developed to improve their volcanic and seismic monitoring and research capabilities.

These measures, which form part of the Chile Bicentenario project to enhance and develop many aspects of Chile’s national life in preparation for the bicentenary of the country’s independence in 2010, are all very encouraging. The Volcanism Blog will continue to monitor developments in Chile.

Bachelet firmó decreto para coordinar monitoreo de sismos y volcanes – Radio Cooperativa, 28 January 2009
Gobierno prepara proyecto de ley para entregar mayores recursos e independencia a la OnemiLa Tercera, 28 January 2009
Bachelet firmó decreto que establece sistema permanente de monitoreo sísmico y volcánico – Terra Chile, 28 January 2009
Decreto establece monitoreo de actividad sísmica y volcánica – 123 Chile, 28 January 2009

The Volcanism Blog