Thursday, June 23, 2011

Chilean ash cloud's round-the-world tour

THE ash cloud from a Chilean volcano that disrupted flights and stranded travellers as far away as Australia has returned home after a round-the-world tour, civil aviation officials say.

"The tip of the cloud that has travelled around the world has more or less reached the town of Coyhaique," around 1600km south of Santiago, Pablo Ortega, head of Chile's civil aviation authority, said.

Chile's LAN airline said it had cancelled some flights to the deep south of the country because of the cloud, and flights to and from Australia, New Zealand and parts of neighbouring Argentina remained suspended.

The cloud from the Puyehue volcano, high in Chile's Andes, disrupted travel across South America, Australia and New Zealand for several days following its eruption on June 4, stranding thousands of travellers.

The thick ash billowing out of the remote volcano poses a danger to aircraft and the disruptions recall the widespread chaos caused in 2010 when an Icelandic volcano's eruption paralysed air traffic over EuropeChilean geologists have predicted the volcano will become less active in the next two weeks, and say the column of smoke has died down to three kilometres from a maximum height of 12km.

The national geological service said that in the coming days either lava will flow from the volcano, indicating the eruption is nearing its end, or a build-up of magma below the surface will cause a new explosion.