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Massive Chilean Eruption Blankets Argentina in Ash June 10, 2011
Pueyehue volcano ash plume
Huge pyrocumulus plume of ash soaring above Chile's Puyehue volcano on June 6, 2011.
A massive eruption of southern Chile’s Puyehue volcano blanketed a vast area of neighboring Argentina in a thick layer of ash, and shut down international air traffic in and out of Buenos Aires and other cities.

About 4,000 people were evacuated from 22 rural communities surrounding the volcano, which suddenly roared back to life after remaining virtually silent since 1960.

A giant column of ash was carried over Argentina’s Patagonia region, and eventually was blown northward into the skies above the capital.

“Ash was dumped like a snowstorm... The city is covered in gray ash,” said Carlos Hidalgo, communications secretary for the worst-affected city of Bariloche.

Snow plows and earth-moving equipment was dispatched to clear the ash from city streets.

Beyond the significant ash threat, Puyehue showered pumice stones and other debris on villages up to three miles from the volcano.

Since Argentina is currently moving into the barren winter months, the ash’s full impact on agriculture won’t be known for months.

Vulcanologists said that Puyehue was showing signs of calming down late in the week.

Photo: El Mercurio