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S. America rattled by volcano devastation
by Staff Writers
Santiago, Chile (UPI) Jun 13, 2011

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Several Latin American countries in the path of volcanic ash unleashed from a Chilean Andean crater are facing critical shortages of water, agricultural collapse, disruptions in transportation and growing risks to human and animal health.

Toxic ash clouds, seen to be dispersing toward Australia, have dumped the powdery substance across vast swathes of territory in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

Air travel over the weekend remained erratic, with dozens of passenger aircraft grounded across airports in the region.

The Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano range in southern Chile began erupting June 4.

The ski season in Patagonia also faced cancellations as volcanic ash affected airport operations at Bariloche, Argentina, and clogged waterways including a river that runs off the slopes of the volcano.

Several thousand inhabitants of nearby towns and villages in Chile and Argentina remained displaced, though some were allowed to return to their damaged homes.

Argentina said it faced an agricultural emergency in its Patagonian region as the blanket of ash left thousands of farm animals without pasture or water.

An estimated 750,000 sheep have been affected in Argentina alone. Data from Brazil, Chile and Uruguay weren't immediately available.

Sergio Pena, an Argentine livestock director said sheep were among the worst affected animals in the area.

"Sheep not only have little to eat but the ash grinds their teeth, further complicating the situation," he said.

Pena said local Argentine agricultural business could look to a much lower wool yield as a result of the ash contamination. The Chubut region was previously hit by a drought that lasted four years and killed more than 1 million sheep.

In Chile, ash and rocks pouring into the Nilahue River raised the temperature to 113 degrees Fahrenheit and killed more than 4.5 million fish, leaving local communities destitute or in need of government help.

National Fishing Service Director Guillermo Rivera told El Mercurio newspaper that fish loss was a direct result of the hot volcanic ash and rocks choking the river. The La Tercera newspaper said the river looked like a "thick, vaporous torrent of chocolate."

Officials said the long-term effects for the marine life of the lakes and rivers of the area will hit hard the fishing industry and tourism.

"I've never seen the lake like this. It's a disaster," Eudulio Velasquez, a cattle rancher, told La Tercera.

"I fish here in the Lago Puyehue and the Rio Gol Gol but I don't know if I'll be able to fish here anymore. I think that all the salmon and trout species have been wiped out in the Gol Gol. It's a tragedy for all the native species," Velasquez said.

Infrastructural damage from the ash has added to disruptions. Ash, landslides and snow blocked the Cardinal Samore Pass between Argentina and Chile after one of the walls collapsed.

The trucking route along the Pino Hachado crossing in the Araucania region was also blocked with vehicles carrying cargo to and from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay stranded in the border region.

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Eritrea eruption disrupts air traffic, Clinton visit
Addis Ababa (AFP) June 13, 2011 - A long-dormant volcano has erupted in Eritrea sending clouds of ash over parts of east Africa, disrupting air traffic and forcing US chief diplomat Hillary Clinton to cut short a trip to Africa.

The eruption of the Dubbi volcano sent a plume of ash up to 15 kilometres into the air, the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre said, disrupting air traffic in Eritrea and neighbouring Ethiopia, and threatening further disruptions in the region.

German airline Lufthansa said it had cancelled two flights to the region and a senior US official said Clinton was leaving the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for fears of being stuck there by the ash cloud.

The official said Clinton and her delegation were leaving "because the ash cloud is moving towards Addis and it could cover the city... for an indeterminate length (of time)."

An AFP reporter confirmed her plane had departed at about 10:00 pm local time (1900 GMT).

Clinton was supposed to have stayed in Ethiopia until Tuesday afternoon as part of a tour of African nations.

The eruption, which began at 2100 GMT on Sunday and was continuing late Monday, was "significant" according to Jean Nicolau of French weather service Meteo-France, which houses the VAAC's operations for southern Europe and Africa.

"Based on satellite images we are seeing, the volcanic ash is reaching altitudes of 13 to 15 kilometres" (42,650 to 49,200 feet), he said, adding: "We are not in a critical situation like with the Icelandic volcano Grimsvotn, which concerned a very busy air traffic zone, because the traffic is much less important" in east Africa.

The eruption was the volcano's first since 1861.

According to preliminary Meteo-France simulations, the lower-density ash clouds were heading west/northwest toward Sudan, while the higher-density clouds were heading west/southwest.

"If the cloud reaches Egypt, Israel or the Arab peninsula, the impact on air traffic will be more significant, but it is too early to know," Nicolau said.

In Berlin, Lufthansa spokesman Marco Dall'Asta said the company's Frankfurt- Addis Ababa flight had been cancelled and that its flight from Frankfurt to the Eritrean capital Asmara via Jeddah had been stopped in Jeddah.

"Nothing has yet been decided for tomorrow (Tuesday)," he said.

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Chile volcano ash grounds Australia, N.Z. flights
Sydney (AFP) June 13, 2011
Ash from Chile's volcanic eruptions prompted Australian airlines to ground some domestic services and flights to New Zealand Sunday, stranding tens of thousands of people after plumes drifted across the Pacific. Strong winds have carried the ash clouds 9,400 kilometres (5,800 miles) across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand since Chile's Puyehue volcano erupted more than a week ago, and they a ... read more

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