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Chilean volcano turns Chaiten into ghost town

Ashes projected by the Chaiten volcano cover like a mantle the village of Chaiten, 1,300 kilometres south from Santiago, on May 3, 2008, forcing the few remaining residentes to walk outdoors wearing facial masks. Thousands of people were being evacuated Saturday the town after a volcano began belching ash and shaking the area with tremors, forcing the cutoff of water supplies, authorities said. For safety the authorities have called on a massive evacuation of the isolated Patagonian town opposite the island of Chiloe. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Santiago (AFP) May 4, 2008
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.

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1600 Eruption Caused Global Disruption
Davis CA (SPX) Apr 28, 2008
The 1600 eruption of Huaynaputina in Peru had a global impact on human society, according to a new study of contemporary records by geologists at UC Davis. The eruption is known to have put a large amount of sulfur into the atmosphere, and tree ring studies show that 1601 was a cold year, but no one had looked at the agricultural and social impacts, said Ken Verosub, professor of geology at UC Davis.

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