There have been reports of further activity in the Chaiten volcano in Chile. Army staff supervising the evacuation of nearby towns reported hearing rumbling noises underground and seeing flashes of light overnight Wednesday. Authorities have stepped up efforts to force the few people remaining in the surrounding area in Patagonia to leave. Experts say the volcano could continue to erupt for weeks or months. A layer of ash over 15cm (6in) thick has built up in some places and ground-water supplies have been contaminated. A number of animals left behind have been rescued, but many have been reported dead. Chile is in one of the most volcanically active regions on Earth. Experts say that about 20 of its more than 100 active volcanoes are in danger of erupting at any time.
Effects of the Chile eruption could last decades - Chilean scientists warned on Wednesday that the eruption of southern Chile’s Chaitén Volcano could have drastic long-term effects on the surrounding region. “Areas now being covered with up to 40 centimeters of ash are practically lost. The ground will need much more than five years in order to recover. Decades could pass before natural vegetation begins to grow again. These areas will be starting from square one.” The cloud of smoke has spread to Argentina's Atlantic coast, located some 500 miles to the east. Scientists said water sources – particularly around Futaleufu – showed signs of “abnormal acidity” and that falling ash had caused a build-up of a white, pasty residue in many local tributaries. They detected high amounts of sulfur both in the air and water due to the falling ash. The eruption, the first for Chaitén Volcano in recorded history, followed two days of unusual seismic activity in the zone. The phenomenon nevertheless caught residents and authorities by surprise. Indeed, government and media reports initially misidentified the eruption as coming from the Michimahuida volcano, located some 40 kilometers north-west of Chaitén. Image Above: Ash from Chaitén volcano has spread to the Atlantic. Photo courtesy of NASA
A blanket of ash is exerting a stranglehold on Patagonia. Large swathes of the Argentinean region lay under a choking cloud of smoke and ash after the eruption of the long-dormant volcano of Chaiten in neighbouring Chile. And the Welsh community there has experienced terrifying periods of “nuclear nights” when the pollution in the air has been so thick that it has blocked out the mid-afternoon sun. Earlier there were dramatic scenes, as ash was spewed 20 miles into the sky by the eruption. In key Welsh Patagonian towns like Esquel and Trevelin, residents had to wear face masks whenever they went outside. Livestock were also beginning to die from breathing air and drinking water clogged with thick volcanic ash. The area yesterday remained largely isolated from the outside world, with airports closed and roads opening sporadically because of the amount of ash on the road, up to 3cm deep in places. Patagonia is just half-an-hour’s drive from the volcano. “It is an event that has taken everybody by surprise, nobody has seen anything like this before.”
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