Chileans near Ensenada are still recovering from the two eruptions of Calbuco volcano on Wednesday, the first in more than 42 years. Flights to and from nearby Puerto Montt have been canceled due to airborne ash, reports the Weather Channel; ash is very dense, and can be very heavy when wet.
Calbuco’s eruptions sent smoke plumes and ash more than 6 miles up in the air. Chilean emergency officials were unprepared for the initial explosion, and only had minutes to issue an alert. The first eruption dumped more than 15 inches of ash and larger volcanic debris in surrounding areas, reports Wired, and ended with lava flows. The volcano also had another blast early Thursday. Ash continued to fall in Puerto Montt and other nearby cities on Thursday.
Nearly 4,000 people were evacuated from nearby towns, according to Wired. The Weather Channel reports that the town of Ensenada, in the foothills of the volcano, is nearly empty save for the occasional dog or horse. Only about 30 people refused to evacuate after the explosion. The area around the volcano is currently closed.
Officials are concerned that the dust might contaminate water and trigger respiratory problems, though no deaths or injuries have resulted from the blasts. Doctors say ash can also cause eye and skin infections. Heavy ash fall has reached even parts of Argentina; experts believe the ash cloud may have shot as high as 40,000 feet, according to the Weather Channel.
President Michelle Bachelet said the biggest concern is health issues stemming from the ashl. “We don’t have any problems with supplies, water or sewage up to now. That’s not the problem,” she said. “Our problem is a respiratory one, from inhaling all of this ash, and the fact that this ash could generate some sort of environmental contamination.”
Unfortunately, it’s not over for Chileans who live near Calbuco. The Weather Channel reports that the Chilean national geology and mining service believes there will be a third “even more aggressive eruption.”