Chaiten Volcanic Eruption Case Study

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Chaitén Eruption

Where did it happen? (written description, map of the location)

Chaitén is a small volcanic caldera (cauldron-like volcanic feature normally formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption) located in southern Chile. The volcano is 3km in diameter and is located 17km west of the Michinmahuida volcano and 10km northeast of the town on Chaiten, hence the name of the volcano.

When did it happen? (date, duration, sequence of events, pace of management and recovery)

The largest and most recent eruption was in May 2008, but before this, the volcano consisted mainly of a rhyolitic lava dome which was last active 9400 years ago. On 2nd May 2008, Chaitén began erupting violently, producing many plumes, pyroclastic flows and lahars, and creating a new lava dome on the north side of the old dome. Chaitén continued to erupt from 2nd May to 8th May with nearly continuous ash emission and irregular large explosions. The eruption has had serious consequences for the nearby town of Chaitén due to the effect s of lahars and ash, and the ash from the eruption even disrupted travel and agriculture in surrounding countries. The plume of steam and ash rose up to 16.8km into the atmosphere on the first day, and continued to do this on the 3rd May. The plume on this day rose over the Andes Mountains, drifted over Argentina and spreads out across the Atlantic Ocean. Due to the ash, many schools and roads were closed- some of which were located hundreds of kilometres away from the volcano.

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The Chilean Government Emergencies Office declared a red alert for Chaitén town at 2pm local time on 2nd May. An evacuation of 1500 people from the town to shelters at Castro and Puerto Monnt began, with priority being given to the most vulnerable groups of people- the sick, the elderly and pregnant women. Further reports stated that the town’s supply of drinking water was suspended because of the danger of contamination from volcanic ash, so emergency water was brought in. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, Fire fighters and government were all involved in the emergency. On 3rd May, it was reported ...

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