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Chaitén one year on 2 May 2009

Posted by admin in Chaitén, Chile, eruptions, natural hazards.
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On 2 May 2008, Chaitén volcano in southern Chile erupted. The eruption has continued without a break for the last year, and shows no signs of coming to an end. This anniversary is being marked by commemorative ceremonies in the abandoned town of Chaitén, and by coverage in the Chilean press and media. The plight of the refugees from Chaitén continues to attract attention, as does the Government’s plan to create a new town in which they will be settled.

La Tercera reflects on the anniversary in an article headed ‘A un año de la erupción del volcán Chaitén: una furia que aún no termina’ (‘one year of the Chaitén eruption: a fury that still has not stopped’), recalling the shock and grief as ‘more than four thousand people were evacuated’ in ‘scenes of sorrow and tears’ as their homes were left ‘in the grip of a volcano that did not even feature in the maps’.

The website of 123 Chile reports on the plans for a commemoration of the anniversary in Chaitén itself: ‘A liturgy, a march to the city cemetery and a symbolic cleaning of the airport are some of the activities that will take place this Saturday … very many chaiteninos have come to the area, where around 70 people are living, with the aim of commemorating what happened’.

Chilean newspaper El Mercurio has a lengthy article including reports that the Government will be ending its financial support for the people evacuated from Chaitén in June:

Confused and with an uncertain future, one year on from the beginning of the violent eruption of Chaitén volcano, the nearly 1900 displaced families face the end of the state assistance which has enabled them to survive in their forced displacement from their homes … Displaced persons without jobs and without homes, and not receiving any support, will be living in a ‘critical’ situation, says councillor Ivonne Pleites, who has proposed extending the benefit until December.

Presidential Delegate Paula Narváez is also arguing for the benefits to be extended to the end of this year. The Government’s assumptions that the people displaced from Chaitén would have been able to find work and living accommodation elsewhere by now, or that they will be able to support themselves until their new town is available at Santa Bárbara, have been shown to be unrealistic. ‘Without home or work, and living in towns with serious unemployment, many would try to return to Chaitén’, reports the paper, despite the danger still posed by the volcano. Alejandro Vío, director of SERNAGEOMIN, tells El Mercurio that the area is still under red alert and anyone trying to return to live in the town is ‘reckless’ and ‘irresponsible’:

At any time … an event can occur the consequences of which are unpredictable. The greatest risk today comes from the 200 metre high dome of viscous lava, over a pressure cooker boiling at a temperature of 400° to 500°. If it gives way, collapsing into the drainages and into the río Blanco, the floods of which have already shown their power, it will sweep away what remains of the town.

Although a year has gone by, on the basis of reports from SERNAGEOMIN experts and the monitoring work of United States scientists, Vío states that Chaitén remains as active as it was on the first day, and as unpredictable.

And finally: ‘El enemigo sigue ahí’ (‘the enemy is still there’) says the Intendente of Los Lagos Region, the inimitable Sergio Galilea, talking about the Chaitén eruption to Radio Cooperativa. The Government’s support for the displaced people of the area, however, will not be there, as he explains: ‘no-one can believe that this [the support payments] will go on for ever, and people with a greater understanding must accept that there is a limit, and that people must make a decision about relocation’. Galilea talks up progress at Santa Bárbara, promising that basic facilities will be there, with drinking water next week, electricity in ten days, and police on site.

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

A un año de la erupción del volcán Chaitén: una furia que aún no terminaLa Tercera, 2 May 2009
Emotividad marca conmemoración de la erupción del Volcán Chaitén – 123 Chile, 2 May 2009
Gobierno les anunció que pondrá fin al beneficio en junioEl Mercurio, 2 May 2009
Intendente y el volcán Chaitén: ‘El enemigo sigue ahí’ – Radio Cooperativa, 2 May 2009

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 (Spanish)

The Volcanism Blog

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