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Volcano buries town under ash in southern Chile

Latest update : 2008-05-05

Some 4,000 residents were evacuated from the town of Chaiten in southern Chile after a volcano erupted for the first time in thousands of years. The volcano buried its namesake town under a layer of ash, killing one elderly woman.

A volcano in southern Chile erupting for the first time has buried the surrounding region under a blanket of ash and has turned Chaiten into a ghost town, with its 4,000 residents facing an uncertain future.
   
"There's no historical record on this volcano, so we have no way of knowing if the ash emissions will continue for weeks or even months," Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma told reporters a day after the Chaiten volcano blew its top.
   
All 4,000 inhabitants of Chaiten have been evacuated to nearby towns and cities, leaving only a skeleton crew of police, military and government officials to protect the abandoned properties.
   
A few locals have stubbornly refused to leave their city, which looks like a ghost town in television reports.
   
President Michelle Bachelet Sunday visited the stricken area and at a press briefing ruled out, for now, moving the entire town of Chaiten to a new site, far from the volcano, to avoid recurring volcano-related evacuations.
   
She said she would fly over the affected area if weather conditions allow it.
   
Chaiten and its surrounds are covered in several centimeters (inches) of ash that incessantly billows out of the Chaiten volcano, some 10 kilometers (six miles) away.
   
Wind-blown ash has traveled hundreds of kilometers (miles) as far as Argentina's Chubut province, where town authorities have issued health emergencies, closing down schools, airports and main roads, and have distributed drinking water to some areas.
   
While no injuries have been reported from the eruption and ash emissions, Radio Cooperativa said a 92-year-old woman died apparently from cardio-respiratory problems during the evacuation of Chaiten on Saturday.
   
The Chaiten volcano is some 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) high and located about 1,300 kilometers (808 miles) south of Santiago.

Date created : 2008-05-05

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