Chile resort struggles with volcanic ash

2011-06-20 15:01
Houses and trees are covered by volcanic ash on the bank of Nahuel Huapi Lake in Villa La Angostura in southern Argentina. (Federico Grosso, AP)

Houses and trees are covered by volcanic ash on the bank of Nahuel Huapi Lake in Villa La Angostura in southern Argentina. (Federico Grosso, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

  • Argentina
    The book's handy pocket size makes it an ideal companion for visitors to Argentina. Now R209.00
    buy now
Villa la Angostura - This upscale resort town in Argentina's Andes, popular with jet-setters for nearby skiing and jaw-dropping scenery, is distraught digging out of a thick blanket of volcanic ash and facing an uncertain future.

This after Chile's nearby Puyehue volcano burst into eruption after decades of silence on June 4, disrupting air traffic in South America, Australia and New Zealand.

It also turned the lush green local landscape - where the heavy snow has yet to begin - and its crystal blue lakes, 100 shades of gray.

"It is all gray where everything was green," said Ricardo Alonso, a doctor by training who is now mayor of the Villa La Angostura, a town of 14 000 now overrun by road trucks trying to shovel away tons of ash.

A stressed Alonso said the local situation remains "dramatic".

"We were the city that the volcanic eruption hit hardest," he said, noting that it was buried under more than 30cm of ash.

Long-term effects

The quaint village done up in Andean-alpine style and set on the bank of sprawling Lake Nahuel Huapi, is feeling charm-impaired. Its usual postcard colourful perfection has been turned into a sad black-and-white film, dotted with fire trucks and emergency military tents.

"I have never seen anything like this. I have seen lots of heavy snowfall, sure, but this is unheard of. It is as if someone had dumped tons of mud on top of us," said Marta Cabezas, a retiree pointing out how the rain has turned the ash into muddy slush.

It is not yet known how serious the effects will be on lake fish, river fish and the local environment more broadly. If the effects turn out to be lasting it could rock the largely tourism based local economy.

Among its frequent visitors from abroad are the Dutch heir to the throne Willem-Alexander and his Argentine-born wife, Maxima.

For now, there are simply not enough snow ploughs to clear all the streets of ash and volcanic slush.

"We are in a battle - the people against the ash, and it's not time for thinking so much as for fighting" to make some progress, the mayor said.

Bad timing

A dedicated crew of about 400 volunteers are rushing to try to do their part to get things closer to normal, sweeping off rooftops, sidewalks, the entrances of hospitals and handing out food and water to those in need.

"The pine trees are just pitiful. They look like they have been defeated - with their branches giving under the heft of the mud - and you have to watch out because they can snap and fall on you," said Cabezas.

In addition to potential fallout for tourism, authorities are keeping a close eye on the ash layer clotting up the Limay River. That is because it leads to the nearby Alicura hydroelectric plant. And authorities still don't know how it will affect the plant's turbines.

The mess could not have come at a worse time: Just ahead of the winter high season.

Normally, at this time of year, the town's population doubles with visitors from Europe, North America and South America. And package tourists often are on swings with stops in Villa la Angostura and the Perito Moreno glacier.

The town itself already has seen about 5 000 of its locals depart indefinitely including senior citizens, pregnant women and people with respiratory difficulties.

"I think this season will be a total loss," said Maria de los Angeles Rola, aged 42, a worker at a cafeteria frequented by the Dutch royals.

- SAPA
Read more on:    argentina  |  chile  |  volcanoes
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic & Train Alerts
Traffic
Cape Town 08:20 AM
Road name: N2 Inbound

DELAYS between Bhunga Avenue and the M5 Highway Interchange

Bellville 08:15 AM
Road name: Bottelary Road Westbound

HEAVY DELAYS approaching La Belle Road

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Travel Sales Manager

Cape Town CBD
Hi-Tech Recruitment - Johannesburg

Regional Sales Manager

Parow
Equinox Recruitment (Pty) Ltd
R30 000 - R35 000 Per Month

Application Engineer

Cape Town
Communicate Cape Town IT
R10 000 - R15 000 Per Month

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to 30% off top fragrances

Get mind blowing savings on selected fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to 50% on Women’s month treats!

Celebrate the awesome women in your life with awesome treats like beauty products, fashion accessories, bestselling books, electronics and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Today is a good day to combine imagination, information and creativity together. Try not to over rationalise things and rather...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.