Chile’s Chaiten volcano erupts, forces evacuation

February 20th, 2009 - 3:55 am ICT by IANS  

Santiago, Feb 20 (IANS) The Chaiten volcano in southern Chile started stirring again Thursday, forcing the evacuation of about 250 people residing near the area, EFE reported.
The volcano in Palena province, some 1,200 km south of Santiago, started activities after nine months of quiet with an explosion at 11:30 a.m. accompanied by earth tremors, intense underground rumbling and a column of smoke and ash, residents and officials said.

“We’ve ordered the complete evacuation of the town of Chaiten. This is one more proof of the imminent risk we have in the area. It’s a time bomb,” said acting Interior Minister Patricio Rosende.

Authorities from the surrounding region of Los Lagos flew over the area for an hour to assess the situation and verify if the mountain’s dome had become deformed.

“There has been a resumption of the eruptive process. The column of smoke has risen to a height four or five times higher than it was,” said Carmen Fernandez, the head of the National Emergency Office, or Onemi.

“We’ve been repetitive and categorical: the eruptive process has not stopped. There have been moments where it’s had less vigor, but it hasn’t stopped. Therefore, we’ve decreed the red alert,” the Onemi chief said, adding that some people Thursday were resisting being relocated.

On May 2, 2008, Chaiten awoke from a roughly 10,000-year slumber and became active again, forcing authorities to undertake a complete evacuation of the slopes of the volcano, in some cases by force.

About 4,000 from the town and another 6,000 from surrounding areas of the volcano were evacuated and settled elsewhere in Chile.

But in recent weeks a group of 250 of the displaced people returned to their homes despite the fact that the structures had been practically destroyed by the rain of ash and by the water and mud from a nearby river that overflowed its banks due to the eruption.

on Jan 29, the government had announced that the town would not be reconstructed as the entire it was considering transferring of the entire settlement to another location.

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