Residents of Buenos Aires woke up on Thursday to a thin dusting of ash coating their cars and lining their streets from the eruption this past weekend at Chile's Puyehue volcano.

As many learned from the drama of Iceland's volcanoes last month, volcanic ash is extremely abrasive and can damage the engines of aircraft and motor vehicles.

Thus, air travel into and out of Argentina's two biggest airports serving the capital has been suspended for a second consecutive day due to the presence of volcanic ash. Both Ezeiza and Aeroparque airports are closed, but the Transportation Secretariat said in a statement that the situation could improve by Friday afternoon as winds blow the ash cloud, now at an altitude of 6,000 meters, away from the airspace.

On Tuesday, winds blew ash from the Chilean volcano in a widening arc, grounding most air travel to and from Argentina. Flights resumed for a short period, but by Thursday all air traffic was again halted.

Geologists in Chile warned that the Cordon Caulle volcano could keep erupting for several weeks and this may not be the end of air traffic delays.

The Puyehue volcano is located about 540 miles (870km) south of Chile's capital Santiago in the Andes mountain range. Saturday's eruption prompted Chilean authorities to order the relocation of almost 4,000 people as the volcano sent a 10-kilometer-high ash cloud into the atmosphere. The winds carried much of this ash across the Andes into Argentina where international resort towns like Bariloche were blanketed in a thick grey film.

Volcanologist Jorge Muñoz of Chile's National Geology and Mines Service said that the eruption is considered to be moderate so far, but that could change.

Airports closer to the volcano in Argentina's south, including those serving the communities of Bariloche, Neuquen and Trelew, will remain closed until further notice.

As the volcano continues to be active, the reopening of the air terminals isn't expected until the safety conditions necessary to operate are guaranteed, Argentina's Transportation Secretariat said in a statement.

The disruption to air travel forced Argentina's government to cancel a two-day meeting of South American finance ministers and central bankers that was scheduled to start on Thursday.


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