Chile’s Calbuco Volcano Has Far-Reaching Impact, And It’s Not Over Yet

Chile’s Calbuco volcano erupted Wednesday, for the first time since 1972, when the region experienced what was considered a minor eruption. The last major eruption was in 1962, and it’s most recent activity before Wednesday was a little show of gas and smoke in 1996. The regional director at the Ministry of Interior and Public Safety, Alejandro Verges expressed concerns of additional eruptions, and that the residents were fearful of what could happen next.

International flights are being delayed or redirected, due to the danger of the volcanic ash that can damage the engines. Many have been cancelled completely as a preventative measure. There have been two earthquakes associated with Calbuco’s eruption, and the region remains on red alert with the threat of future eruptions, massive amounts of volcanic ash, and the threat of landslides from melting snow. Testing is being done to see if the ash, which contains substances such as arsenic, poses a threat to drinking water.

Panic followed the first eruption, with residents trying to prepare themselves for the aftermath and the on-going threat of further eruptions from the volcano’s instability. A resident shared the first reactions with CNN.

“It was impressive to see an enormous mushroom cloud, with the immense force of the volcano, and to see the ashes. At that point, there was a lot of panic, lots of chaos, traffic jams, people going to supermarkets, everyone looking for water, trying to take out money from the ATMS.”

Helmuth Huerta, a spokesman for the National Geological and Mineral Service of Chile also weighed in on the matter.

“There is more seismic activity in this hour, and we think there will be more activity today.”

The town of Ensenada, located at the foot of the Calbuco volcano, was covered in a thick layer of ash which caved in roofs and contaminated the air, causing concerns of respiratory health issues. Chile President Michelle Bachelet has declared a state of emergency after visiting the area Thursday.

Flights have been cancelled to and from Pueto Montt, another city near the volcano, and a popular tourist destination, due to the ash. The winds reportedly carried it up to 50 miles away to other smaller towns, covering the cars and streets. As much as 23 1/2 inches have been reported in some places, according to the Ministry of Interior and Public Safety.

Approximately 5,000 residents have been evacuated, and all towns within a 13-mile radius have been declared exclusion zones.

[Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Stringer]