A plane flight the same day over the area of interest does not bring any news, because climatic conditions were too bad to see exactly what was happening. ONEMI, the countries national emergency authority informed about the eruption of the icecovered volcano Michinmahuida. A team of experts was sent to the region and a "red alert" was outspoken.
About 250 people of the closer vicinity of the Private Nature Park "PUMALIN" were evacuated the same afternoon. Later it was found that not the Michinmahuida but the volcano Chaiten erupted. This volcano is situated just 10 km to the east of the town with the same name, which put the citizen of this town and the surrounding area under direct danger.
The volcano is situated half on public lands and half inside the before mentioned private nature park PUMALIN (Douglas Tompkins). The elevated ash cloud could be seen upto 180km away.
During the next day many small seismic events happened in Chaiten , those are connected to the eruption of the volcano.
The volcano Chaiten erupted the last time about 9700 years ago. This ancient eruption colocated about five meter thick ash layers around the volcano. Since that time the volcano behaved well and was considered to be one of the less treatening volcanos. But now the long sleep seems to be over.
In the course of the afternoon and evening, many inhabitants from Chaiten and Futaleufú are being evacuated or get out of the zone of danger under their own initiative. Aproximately 100 people still stay in Chaiten.
The third of May brings the president of Chile to the region. Michelle Bachelet is checking first hand, what is going on and what can be done.
In the meantime the ash of the volcano begins to spread over the countries borders into the argentine province of Chubut. (Later, seven of Argentinas prvinces are affected by the ash). Everything is covered by ash. There are strong needs for dust masks and clean drinking water. The hydrological situation is bad due to the constantly raining ash. Cattle and sheep have problems to survive, since food for them is not available.
The fifth of May 2008 brings the evacuation of Futaleufú. This little town, famous for its beautiful Futaleufú river and the great adventure sport activities is also affected by the ash. The president goes to Futa and emergency plans come into action. Most problematic is the missing of WATER and food. Help is coming, the first water is brought in trucks from the argentinian neighbors. Coyhaique (the XI. Region of Aysén) sends help also. 40% Futaleufús population is being evacuated
Next day, 6.5.2008 there is an enormous eruption happening at the volcanos site. The so far two craters of the volcano are unified in to one big one, and the cloud is seen from far away. Authorities give order to evacuate an area of 30 km around the zone of eruption. Later this circle will be widened to 50 km radius. The highest organ of justice approves that governmental forces can from now on evacuate persons from within the declared zone of high risk even without their free will to stay in that area.
Navy ships and terrestrial vehicles evacuate the remaining population of Chaiten. They have to leave everything what they love and have worked for - maybe all their lifes. They also have to leave their pets and animals. During the transfer via maritima from Chaiten there is a first and hopefully only victim of the volcano: a 92 year old woman dies from respriratorial problems.
The experts say, the situation at the volcano site has worsened. The clouds of ash could reach Buenos Aires or as well Santiago. The emergency panel discusses further steps to take.
07.05.2008: About 200 of the evacuated persons from Futaleufú reach a military area in the northerly Osorno. The situation is tense. Due to the failure of a road connection between the Xth and XIth region an evacuation to the North is only possible via maritime ways with their bad climatic conditions to time or via Argentina (Futaleufú).
Border checkpoints extend their opening times and the persons who travel over the border to Argentina have less buerocratic problems at the borders. All help as much as it is possible.
Since more than 20 years exist the idea to build a road of about 67km length (as the crow flies) in order to connect two big parts of Chile by land. Most of the Chileans are behing the road construction project but the government so far did not realize this important project, for whatever the reasons.
The military brings about 30,000 Litres of water to Futaleufú. The ash layer in Futaleufú reaches a thickness of 30 centimeters, and ash is everywhere. The day now becomes night, one can hardly see.
In Uruguay flights to Buenos Aires have been cancelled because of the damaging effects of the ash to the planes turbines.
08.05.2008: Police and armed forces get the last inhabitants out of the circle of danger. Only a small group of armed forces personnel stays in Chaiten, to prevent robberies and the like.
Trucks with food and water for the livestock reach Futaleufú.
President Bachelet acknowledges the excellent relations and good assistance to the neighboring country of Argentina. The ash cloud reaches Buenos Aires. The air traffic is affected and it could have influences in Uruguay also..
At May the 9th, Michelle Bachelet is in the region another time to check on the progress of things. In a fast action all materials regarding property rights in the province of Palena, which were stored in Chaiten were rescued from that place. Time is a critical point, since it has been calculated that the lava/ or remains of the volcano, should it collapse would reach and destroy Chaiten withon 6 (SIX) minutes.
3.5 billion salmons are being transferred to a place with similiar living conditions at the shore waters of the grand island of CHILOE.
The next day sees the president going to Chaiten in helicopter. Same day a program to assist the affected families is made public in its first rough thoughts. Especially in need now are finances for hostelling , provisioning and medical supplies of the affected persons. Some livestock has been brought out of the risky area to adjacent places.
Sunday, 11. 05. 2008: Vulcanology expert Luis Lara of the Chilean Service for Geology and Minerals (SERNAGEOMIN) expresses his opinion. Due to the 7km high cloud of volcanic ash and the ongoing seismic activity an eminent and permanent danger from the volcano is to be expected.
The happenings at the volcano Chaiten belong to some of the more complex ones that Chileans have ever been dealt with in this area. Of the 7000 evacuated persons 4000 are right now in Puerto Montt. They have to deal with less than optimum conditions.
Uncertain about the proceedings of the volcanic events, Chileans right now have a difficult time to live through. Since eight days, the volcano is active. Nobody knows for how long this will be the case, or when things will turn to the better.
Do you have questions or want to contribute to this thread? Please use our FORUM.