Chile and Argentina Evacuate Populations near Copahue Volcano

By Dialogo
May 30, 2013

On May 28, Chilean authorities started to evacuate residents near the Copahue volcano on the border area with Argentina because many locals had refused to abandon their animals, while the Argentine population had already left the dangerous area in view of the high probability of an explosive eruption.

The Chilean authorities in charge launched an emergency evacuation plan to move about 2,240 people living in a 25 km area around the volcano, although some farmers had initially refused to leave their homes, for fear of leaving their animals unprotected.

In the afternoon, authorities agreed with the villagers to protect the animals and decided to continue with the evacuation process on May 29, working quickly to take maximum advantage of daylight hours.

On May 28, the plan called for the evacuation of about 700 people to be placed in shelters after being transported in military trucks, and the departure of the 2,240 affected was expected to be completed by the following day.

On the Chilean side, the volcano is located at about 500 km to the south of Santiago, in a difficult-to-reach area, where some Pehuenche aboriginal communities live as well.

On the Argentine side, the small village Caviahue-Copahue, the closest town to the volcano, remained evacuated since May 27, in case of a possible eruption.

About 600 inhabitants from Caviahue-Copahue moved on their own, or were transported to the neighbouring villages of Loncopué (at about 50 km) and Las Lajas, Neuquén governor, Jorge Sapag, explained.

“Vulcanologists estimate that an eruption may occur within minutes, hours or days, so we will monitor the volcano’s activity during the first three days to know what is happening inside of it,” Sapag added.

The Copahue, standing at 2,965 meters, is in the middle of the Andes range, 358 km from Neuquén, capital city of the Argentine province of the same name, located 1,582 km from Buenos Aires.

Generally, “the Copahue volcano displays few (seismic) events, but since May 26 it has been noted that more than 100 seismic events per hour have taken place, such as small tremors, but considering the frequency and that the released energy is more alarming than usual, this process is considered as a potential future eruption,” Luis Lara, head geologist of the ‘Riesgo Volcánico de Sernageomín’ program, told Cooperativa radio station.