April 24, 2015 12:20 pm

Ash blankets towns as Chile’s Calbuco volcano erupts twice; authorities warn of 3rd blast

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ENSENADA, Chile – Mighty blasts from the looming Calbuco volcano have left Ensenada an ash-drowned ghost town, abandoned by its 1,500 residents. And officials warned Friday they might have a long stay away.

 

The volcano, which had been dormant for more than four decades, erupted Wednesday, spewing a plume of ash about 9 miles (15 kilometres) high. A second, spectacular outburst came early Thursday, with lightning crackling through a dark sky turned reddish orange by the explosion.

The head of the National Mining and Geology Service said Friday that the volcano’s eruptive process could last weeks and even months.

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“What I can say for certain is that this process is not going to end now,” the service’s director, Rodrigo Alvarez said. “It’s highly likely that we will have other eruptions, maybe not with the same amount of energy, but with activity that can be worrisome.”

At the foot of the volcano, Ensenada was covered in thick soot, raising concerns that the ash could contaminate water, cause respiratory illnesses and ground more flights. Some roofs had collapsed under the weight of the ash.

Just about 10 miles (16 kilometres) from Calbuco’s peak, Ensenada is within the official evacuation zone, and most residents complied. But about 30 refused to evacuate because of worries about their homes and animals.

© 2015 The Associated Press

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