The Calbuco volcano in southern Chile began erupting for the first time since 1972 on Wednesday, forcing nearly 1,500 residents of Ensenada, a village at the foot of the volcano in the south of the country, to flee to safer locations.
The volcano, which had been inactive for 42 years, spewed an ash cloud that rose at least 50,000 feet above the volcano, which erupted for the second time early Thursday, turning the sky into a dark reddish hue, the Associated Press (AP) reported, adding that Ensenada, which sits at the foot of the 6,500-foot peak, was covered in thick ash.
“We don't have any problems with supplies, water or sewage up to now,” Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet said Thursday. “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.”
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An ash cloud from the volcano blew across Chile and Argentina on Thursday, forcing authorities in both countries to cancel flights from nearby cities. However, international airlines that fly into Santiago said that they were monitoring the situation, adding that no flights were affected, Reuters reported.
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In 2011, following the eruption of Chile's Puyehue volcano, airlines from many countries -- some as far away as Australia -- were forced to cancel flights. However, experts have said that the latest eruption of Calbuco is not as serious as the one in Puyehue in 2011.
“So far, the eruption has been slightly less serious (than in 2011) and the meteorological conditions have been good, meaning the ashes are remaining suspended in the air,” Ignacio Lopez, a meteorologist at Argentina's national meteorology center, told Reuters.