Chileans fear deadly landslides after volcano

Threat of landslides looms, and many planes in Australia and New Zealand are grounded as ash spreads across Pacific.

    Many residents have been ordered to remain in shelters away from their homes due to possible deadly mudslides [EPA]

    Chileans living near an erupting voclano have evacuated their homes.

    On Sunday, Chilean officials ordered the majority of residents to stay in shelters and with family and friends due to the threat of deadly landslides.

    The Cordon Caulle volcano's activity had diminished, but there was still a threat of intense landslides containing mud and water as well as rocks and ash thrown from the volcano on its north side, Chile's National Geology and Mines Service said in a statement.

    The ash spread across the Pacific, prompting authorities to suspend flights in Australia and New Zealand.

    About 4,000 Chileans have been evacuated since the volcano began erupting on June 4.

    Haroldo Lebed, executive secretary of Argentina's agricultural emergency and disaster agency, has said that authorities are going to declare a national emergency to get financial aid to affected producers.

    Flights grounded

    Australia's national carrier, Qantas Airways, grounded flights within the country and in New Zealand.

    Al Jazeera's Andrew Thomas, reporting from Sydney, said the impact of the ash cloud had been felt across Australia.

    "Services to ... parts of Australia no where near the ash cloud affected zone are affected and cancelled too, because aircraft are stuck where they shouldn't be."

    He said travellers are increasingly frustrated because different airlines are treating the incident in different ways.

    Despite the cloud's expansion overnight, Virgin Australia started flying out of Melbourne, Tasmania and New Zealand on Monday morning with a reduced schedule.

    More than two dozen Virgin flights were still suspended, and about 4,000 to 6,000 passengers stranded, said a company spokesperson.

    Qantas, meanwhile, cancelled more flights in and out of Melbourne, saying it would reassess at midday on Monday.

    Air New Zealand has not cancelled or delayed any flights yet, instead choosing to adjust routes and altitudes to ensure aircraft remain clear of any ash, company spokesperson Tracy Mills said.

    But the company was continually assessing the situation and could be forced to suspend service later on Monday, Mills added.

    Longer disruption

    The plume of ash could disrupt travel for the next several days and could reach the Australian capital, Canberra, on Monday afternoon, according to Airservices Australia.

    Volcanic ash hovering over the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires and the nearby Uruguayan capital of Montevideo forced officials in both countries to cancel flights late last week.

    Air traffic began to return to normal on Friday night and was operating normally by early on Sunday.

    But late on Sunday, conditions again began to worsen in Buenos Aires and authorities decided to "limit air operations" at Jorge Newbery airport in the Argentine capital, a National Civilian Aviation Administration statement said.

    Several airports in the nearby southern Argentine region of Patagonia remained closed. Sunday's winds began blowing ashes in a northeasterly direction, towards the Patagonian cities of Villa La Angostura and San Martin de los Andes, volcanologist Hugo Moreno said.

    Moreno said that scientists discovered during a flyover of the volcano on Saturday that it was not spewing material through a 3-mile-long (5-kilometre-long) fissure, but through a crater measuring 980 feet to 1,300 feet (300 meters to 400 meters) in diameter.

    Chile has more than 3,000 volcanoes along its Andean spine, and 500 of these are considered geologically active. About 60 of these have erupted in the past 450 years.

    The Cordon Caulle is located 1,000 kilometres south of the Chilean capital, Santiago.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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