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Chile Volcano Spews Ash, Buries Chaiten

Chile's Chaiten Volcano had its first eruption in thousands of years Friday, and yesterday started spewing enormous plumes of ash 20 miles into the air. Following evacuations, Chaiten (the nearby settlement) is now a ghost town, as the ash slowly settles over the landscape, turning it into a modern day Pompeii.

Chaiten Volcano (Reuters)Chaiten Volcano (Reuters)There are currently no casualties, but the livestock and plants surrounding are not expected to survive. With ash covering all the plants, animals will be ingesting toxic amounts of it, as the plants themselves are slowly smothered by up to 6 inches of ash. It's like scenery from another time.

With bits of molten rock being spit into the air, there is still no lava, but that could change at any time. Chaiten is quickly changing from a vibrant settlement with virtually no tourism to a future vacation hotspot.

In the meantime, the area is emptying out, and in nearby Argentina, flights have been cancelled due to the ash. Only journalists and armed forces (for rescues efforts) are allowed into the area - and I wish I was one of them.

According to Charles Stern, a volcanologist at the University of Colorado-Boulder, the stifled landscape and nearby town could end up buried; much like Pompeii was by Mount Vesuvius. The ash preserved every detail of ancient Roman life, turning it into a major tourist attraction (it wasn't uncovered until 1748). Whether we uncover Chaiten soon, or it remains covered for centuries, one thing is certain. This is something that people are going to want to see.

For more information about the volcano, check out one of these sites:

AP News


BBC News

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