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Break in Andean Ash Allows Airport to Finally Reopen January 20, 2012
San Carlos de Bariloche airport
A Chilean airliner at a Bariloche airport gate during a rare ash-free day in the region.
An Argentina airport that closed for nearly seven months due to volcanic ash from neighboring Chile was able to open for only three days before returning dense ash forced it closed again.

The brief reopening had sparked optimism in the Andean foothill resort region around San Carlos de Bariloche, after more than a half-year of isolation brought on by the eruption of Puyehue volcano.

The nearby mountain slopes are popular destinations for snow skiers in winter, a well as for hikers and anglers in summer.

Economists estimate there have been hundreds of millions of dollars in losses due to the cataclysmic eruption of Puyehue, which started last June 5 about 55 miles to the west.

Ash blasted into the stratosphere from the mountain at that time forced the closure of airports across parts of South America, and as far away as Australia.

The Andean resorts around San Carlos de Bariloche are currently at what would be the height of the summer tourist season and can only be reached by land routes.

Photo: Aeropuerto de Bariloche