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The Chaitén volcano is maintaining its eruptive activity unabated.
Yesterday, the Oficina Nacional de Emergencia (ONEMI) reported that military personnel in Chaitén ‘perceived loud noises coming from the volcano, abundant ashfalls and electrical discharges around the top of the mountain’. Heavy cloud cover and rainfall prevented observation of the eruption cloud. The ONEMI bulletin also confirms earlier reports that 90% of the town of Chaitén is flooded.
‘This further activitation of the volcano is a situation that is really worrying us’, Sergio Galilea, Intendente of the Los Lagos Region, told Reuters on Thursday. The Reuters article describes the volcano as having ‘increased its activity, with frequent small earthquakes’, and quotes Miguel Munoz of ONEMI: ‘pyroclastic flows are continuing, and there is a more pronounced emission of ash’. A report from TV Canal 13 observes that ‘There’s nothing encouraging in the picture from Chaitén’, with ‘heavy rains and floods nearly destroying the place, on top of increased activity from the erupting volcano’.
New reports came in from Chile’s Oficina Nacional de Emergencia today – a change in wind direction has brought ashfall to areas west of the volcano that have hitherto been spared:
The eruptive process continues at Chaitén volcano. The volcano itself could not be observed today because of the cloud cover in the area.
Since late yesterday a light ashfall has been occurring in some sectors of Chiloé Island, principally affecting the islands of Butacheque, Metaluf, Quenac and Tac and the communes of Quemchi, Achao, Castro, Chonchi and Queilen. Municipal teams are distributing masks in the sectors concerned.
According to information from the Meteorological Directorate of Chile this situation will continue until the early hours of tomorrow morning, Friday 16 May. The orientation of the wind to the north-east and later to the east has been partly responsible for the carrying of ash into these areas. During the morning the Chaitén area will experience cloud cover and rain.
The areas of Chiloé Island being affected by the ashfall are all towns, villages and small islands on the Chiloé Island east coast. The Dirección Meteorológica de Chile, to judge from their forecast for the Los Lagos region (PDF) expects predominantly northerly winds to continue today, along with yet more rain, which does not bode well for the already lahar-engulfed town of Chaitén.
NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image on May 10, 2008:
Click here to view high-resolution version (2.67MB)
I’ve no new imagery showing the wind reversal as of posting time. If anyone knows of one please advise. (h/t to the Volcanism Blog and Gary Galrud)