SANTIAGO — Southern Chile's Puyehue volcano was calm Sunday, one day after raining down ash and forcing thousands to flee, although the cloud of soot it had belched out still darkened skies as far away as Argentina.
A light drizzle rained down on the volcano Sunday, helping to mitigate the effects of the airborne ash somewhat, while the mountain appeared to go quiet one day after having rumbled to life.
"The city awakened in calm," said Marcelo Cascon, mayor of Bariloche in neighboring Argentina, which had received a large deposit of volcanic ash spewed out from Puyehue on Saturday.
Puyehue is located 870 kilometers (540 miles) south of the capital Santiago in the Cordon Caulle complex nestled in the Andes mountains. Its last major eruption was in 1960, following a magnitude 9.5 earthquake.
Bariloche, a Patagonian resort town about 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of the volcano, remained under a state of emergency because of the eruption, which had covered the small city of some 50,000 inhabitants by a sooty blanket of several centimeters (inches) thick.
The National Service of Geology and Mining said the explosion that sparked Puyehue's eruption produced a column of gas 10 kilometers (six miles) high.
"You can see the fire (in the volcano) and a plume of smoke, and there's a strong smell of sulfur," top Los Rios region official Juan Andres Varas told reporters.
The government, which ordered the evacuation of 600 people immediately after the eruption, over the course of Saturday expanded that number to 3,500 people to be relocated to shelters in safe areas.
Authorities issued a red alert, the maximum warning level, for the area and closed an Argentina-Chile border crossing.
Yeimi Obando, a professor who was evacuated, told National Television of Chile on Saturday that people "are very worried" about the effect of ash on their cattle and other animals.
"Ash was dumped like a snowstorm. The city is covered in gray ash," Carlos Hidalgo, Bariloche's communications secretary, told TN television.
"We're trying to stop car traffic and ask that people stay at home and close their doors and windows to prevent the volcanic ash from coming in," said Hidalgo.
Meanwhile, the city's airport, which was closed during the emergency, remained closed on Sunday.
The town, as well as others in the vicinity affected by the ash, welcomes thousands of foreign tourists each year to its lakes and mountain scenery, as well as ski slopes in the winter months.
Argentine officials in La Angostura announced late Saturday that the Andean town of 16,000 people was on "red alert" and residents were urged to ration water use.
Flagship airline Aerolineas Argentinas announced it had canceled six flights on Saturday because of the volcano, the company said.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »