Chile’s Calbuco volcano erupted for the third time in eight days on Thursday, sending a new cloud of ash and gas high into the sky, although officials said the latest eruption was less powerful than last week’s.
The volcano spewed more than 200 million tons of ash last week, coating nearby towns, wrecking parts of the salmon industry and forcing the cancellation of flights as far away as Buenos Aires, Argentina, 870 miles to the northeast.
Although the volcano had been quiet this week, geological officials warned it was still unstable and could erupt again. The new eruption began at 1:09 p.m., according to Sernageomin, the national geology and mining office.
“This emission should begin to weaken in the coming hours ... but we are in an eruptive process, on red alert, and the situation can change at any time,” said Sernageomin head Rodrigo Alvarez.
Calbuco, one of the most active in a chain of about 2,000 volcanoes in Chile, is in the scenic Los Lagos region, a popular tourist destination some 620 miles south of the capital, Santiago.
TV pictures showed a thick, gray plume spreading quickly into the sky on Thursday afternoon. It was heading southeast over the Andes into Argentina, said government meteorologist Arnaldo Zuniga.
LATAM Airlines’ Chilean arm, LAN, which canceled some flights last week as a precaution because of the ash cloud, said flights in Chile and Argentina have so far been unaffected.
A 12-mile exclusion zone has remained in place around the volcano since the first sudden eruption on April 22, but some residents have been making short visits to their homes to begin clearing away thick layers of ash and debris.
About 1,500 more people were evacuated on Thursday, said Interior Minister Mahmud Aleuy, who added that the eruption was not as powerful as those of last week, when ash and gas reached more than 10 miles into the atmosphere. “This emission is notably weaker than the previous ones. We are talking about a column of ash no higher than 4 kilometers [2.5 miles],” he said.
Officials said that heavy rain or snow on Friday could lead to complications such as lahars, which are flows of mud or debris that can wipe out most things in their path.