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Chilean ash cloud completes round-the-world tour

/ 04:55 AM June 18, 2011

SANTIAGO—The ash cloud from a Chilean volcano that disrupted flights and stranded travelers as far away as Australia returned after its own round-the-world tour on Friday, civil aviation officials said.

“The tip of the cloud that has traveled around the world has more or less reached the town of Coyhaique,” around 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) south of Santiago, said Pablo Ortega, head of Chile’s civil aviation authority.

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Chile’s LAN airline said it had canceled some flights to the deep south of the country because of the cloud, and flights to and from Australia, New Zealand and parts of neighboring 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 travelers.

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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 paralyzed air traffic over Europe.

Chilean geologists have predicted the volcano will become less active in the next two weeks, and said the column of smoke had died down to three kilometers (1.8 miles) from a maximum height of 12 kilometers (7.5 miles).

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

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TAGS: Australia, Aviation, Chile, New Zealand, Volcano
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