SANTIAGO, Chile – The Calbuco volcano erupted again Thursday, sending dark bursts of ash and hot rock billowing 2.5 miles into the air and prompting Chilean officials to order a new evacuation of nearby residents.
Thick clouds boiled out of 6,500-foot cone, bringing the threat of new, heavy ash fall over villagers struggling to clean up from two huge blasts last week. The surrounding area was evacuated after the volcano first erupted last Wednesday afternoon, but many people had begun to return to their ash-drowned homes.
"We were working, cleaning the ash and sand from our homes when this third eruption took place. I feel so much anger and impotence it just breaks me apart," Horacio Camano said sobbing after evacuating the town of Ensenada with his family.
"There are no words for having to live this over again — having our families worried about us, all phones collapsed. I just want this to calm down so we can return home."
The eruptions at Calbuco are the first in more than four decades. More than 4,500 people have been evacuated since the Calbuco roared back to life April 22, sending ash about 11 miles into the sky. Hours later, it produced a second, spectacular outburst that turned the nighttime sky reddish orange.
The ash from those eruptions spread across the southern part of the continent, disrupting flights all the way to Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, and causing widespread economic damage by turning cattle pastures barren and choking fish in one of the world's top salmon-producing countries.
"This latest eruption is much smaller than the other two," Deputy Interior Minister Mahmud Aleuy said at a news conference, but he said 1,500 people were being evacuated as a precaution.
Rodrigo Alvarez, director of the National Mining and Geology service, said that new eruptions stronger than those last week were not expected. But he warned that rains, which are expected to fall beginning Friday, could lead to devastating volcanic mud flows, known as lahars, which are capable of leveling anything in their path once in motion.
"Lahars are possible if we get heavy rains, so it's still a concern," Alvarez said.
Volcano expert Moyra Gardeweg said the wet weather also could mean acid rain that damages metal and plant life and pollutes water sources.
Last week, LATAM and other airline companies cancelled several flights since ash can severely damage jet engines. But LAN, the Chilean unit of LATAM, said its flights were not disrupted by the latest eruption.