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Under the volcano, Chaitén diehards continue their fight 24 February 2009

Posted by admin in activity reports, Chaitén, Chile, eruptions, natural hazards.
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There was a new partial collapse of the dome at Chaitén volcano yesterday evening. At around 20:40 local time reddish material was seen rising from the volcano and forming an ash-laden plume which dispersed to the north. If you have the patience of a saint you can try to watch a video report of the event at Chilean television channel TVN’s dreadful ’24 horas’ news website. News reports say that it is not yet clear in which direction the collapse took place, but the evidence of the TVN video (as far as it can be pieced together) is that, as on 19 February, it was in a southward direction, with debris flows descending the Chaitén river valley towards the town. EDIT: turns out this video was of the 19 February collapse after all, not yesterday’s event (thanks to Boris Behncke for clearing that up).

The collapse caused alarm among the 30 or so inhabitants of Chaitén who remain on site in defiance of the Chilean Government’s decision to abandon the town. These people, some news reports say, are now being evacuated. Meanwhile, a group of some 200 former inhabitants of Chaitén are taking the Government to court in an attempt to ensure that they can remain in the town. Their legal team is arguing that no disaster zone was ever declared at Chaitén, making the Government’s decision to evacuate and abandon the town unconstitutional and illegal. The Deputy Minister of the Interior, Patricio Rosende, has responded by calling these claims ‘unfounded and inappropriate’.

At the Eruptions blog, Erik Klemetti has written a well-balanced piece on the Chaitén situation, with more general reference to the difficulties of persuading people to abandon their homes and the lives they have known in the face of volcanic hazards, actual or predicted: ‘Volcanism and society: What to do about Chaiten’.

For all our Chaitén coverage: Chaitén « The Volcanism Blog.

Volcán Chaitén sufre nuevo desprendimiento del domoEl Mercurio, 23 November 2009
Nuevo desprendimiento del domo alarmó a quienes están en el pobladoEl Mercurio, 24 November 2009
Volcán Chaitén lo hizo de nuevo – Ahora sufrió un desprendimiento del domoEl Morrocotudo, 24 November 2009
Nuevo desprendimiento en el domo del volcán Chaitén – 123 Chile, 24 February 2009
Volvió a temblar el ChaiténRio Negro Online, 24 February 2009
Volcán volvió a provocar desplazamiento en ChaiténLa Nación, 24 February 2009
‘Rebel’ residents ignore volcano danger, stay putPatagonia Times, 24 February 2009

Global Volcanism Program: Chaitén – summary information for Chaitén (1508-41)
SERNAGEOMIN – Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (Spanish)
Erupción del Volcán Chaitén – extensive coverage of the Chaitén eruption

The Volcanism Blog



1. Boris Behncke - 24 February 2009

I did actually manage to capture the TVN video, and the footage it shows is of 19 February (we already saw the nose of the pyroclastic flow in the valley in still photos, but here we have a moving version). I say this because it’s all daytime footage, and the 23 February collapse is said to have occurred after nightfall, so no footage of that event here. Certainly it is spectacular.
Concerning the legal issues raised by some of the Chaiteninos, I think they are pushing things a bit far. It’s like that Chilean lawyer saying that “whatever will happen in Chaitén, the Government will be guilty of it”. That reminds me of that guy who lost an (illegally constructed) little land house in an eruption of Etna, and wrote – just before its destruction by a lava flow – “Thank you Government” on its wall. In fact, one of the readers of the newspaper that cited the lawyer commented (ironically) “in the end it will be the Government to be blamed for the eruption”. Really, there is no such thing. Governments may be responsible for excessive urbanization in dangerous volcanic areas, as at Vesuvius, Vulcano and Etna in Italy. But my impression is that the Chilean government has been, and is, handling the Chaitén crisis with the maximum of sensibility and reasoning. Unfortunately there will always be those who refuse to accept the danger, and who, once something bad has happened, raise legal issues. This has happened at Montserrat after the deaths by (predicted) pyroclastic flows in 1997. In the end it all comes down to human nature. Human nature is the least reasonable, the least logical of all factors involved in volcanic (and other disaster-related) crises.

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