Image: Smoke and ash rise for thousands of meters through a thick layer of clouds from the crater of the Chaiten volcano in southern Chile, May 7, 2008. REUTERS
A huge plume of ash towering above the Chilean Chaiten volcano could collapse and plummet to earth at any moment, an expert has warned. Residents within a 30-mile (50 kilometre) radius of the volcano have now been forced to evacuate from the area. It is possible the plume of ash and rock debris could collapse, killing anyone within it's path. Similar volcanoes (in Mexico and the Philippines, for example) have collapsed on the seventh or eight day of continuous eruption. "We are at a critical point of this phase given the characteristics have remained the same for several days. The volcano is now at its limit and one possibility is that the column could collapse quickly, generating flows of pyroclastic material down its ravines. But there are also other scenarios, such as the energy of the eruption being released more gradually." Geologists have now recommended that the town be moved from it's current location.
Some have compared the situation to Pompeii, the Roman city destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The volcanic activity is not unusual, but is SPECIAL in the fact that this type of eruption only happens about six times each century. The volcano has been blowing up since last Friday and there's no telling when it will stop. The 20-mile plume has sent ash into Buenos Aires, shutting down the airport. But if the plume changes formation, it could get even worse.
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