SANTIAGO – The Chilean government announced on Sunday that the more than 4,000 people who were evacuated in southern Chile after the eruption of the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano on June 4 may return to their homes starting immediately.
The announcement was made by Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter at the Onemi national emergency office in Santiago.
“We’ve made the decision that the people who had to evacuate can return to their homes, because the information about the volcanic activity indicates that it is decreasing,” the minister added.
Ash released from the Chilean volcano traveled around the world in the upper atmosphere and forced numerous commercial flights from South America to Australia and New Zealand to be suspended, although in recent days those flights have been resumed.
Hinzpeter, who held a press conference along with his counterpart from the Mining and Energy Ministry, Laurence Golborne, emphasized that “we did not have any misfortune, no accident to regret during this period, and we’re hoping to help (the evacuees) in returning to their homes.”
The Chilean Cabinet chief warned that experts cannot guarantee that another evacuation will not have to be ordered if circumstances justify it saying, “It’s not very probable, but it also can’t be ruled out.”
The minister said that although the volcanic activity is decreasing, the Cordon Caulle volcano will continue emitting a plume of smoke and ash, and it is possible that local residents may feel slight earthquakes, but all that is normal in a situation like this.
The volcanic complex – which extends for 15 kilometers (about 9.5 miles) between the regions of Los Lagos and Los Rios in the Andes mountain chain, some 950 kilometers (589 miles) south of Santiago – forced regional authorities to issue an evacuation order on June 4 affecting more than 4,000 people in the zone near the eruption.
Over the 16 days that people were housed in shelters, Chilean army trucks were used to transport some farmers and peasants to the area near the volcano so that they could feed their livestock.
Chile, a country situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, has 2,085 volcanoes, of which about 125 are considered to be geologically active, and about 60 have had some type of eruptive activity in the last 450 years.
The Ring of Fire runs almost all the way around the coastline of the Pacific Ocean and is characterized by areas where continental plates are moving under one another, often resulting in intense seismic and volcanic activity in the countries there.