Futaleufu Under Siege

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PL Exclusive update from Chris Spelius of Expediciones Chile:

“It’s important to differentiate Chaiten, which is 6 miles away from the eruption, from the town of Futaleufu, which is 70 miles away.

I left with my daughter a week before it happened, but my wife is still there. Before it erupted, the area expereinced about 80 earthquakes in five days, which usually signals something big is brewing. It blew the next day. Winds affected the various ash deposits differently. At our camp on the river we only got a few centimeters, but in the town of Futaleufu it looks like snowfall of 6-7 inches of ash. For three days straight it came down like winter snowfall, without an ounce of wind.

Right now there is a voluntary evacuation from the town. President Michelle bachelet has already visited the area and people are worried about the locals’ animals dying. Eight giant miltary buses showed up to help with the evacuation, complete with gas masks.

From a boater’s perspective, it was pretty good timing, with the maximum amount of time before the next paddling season. The rains here usually start in May, and at least down by the river we’re hopeful that they’ll wash the ash away. But clients are already calling about next year.

There’s talk that it might blow even worse still, and the real danger is for the people in Chaiten, where there’s a mandatory evacuation going on. Rains could bring huge mud flows,

Since I’ve been here in Chile I’ve seen massive landslides, a volcano blow on the BioBio, two floods of Biblical proportions, and more. It’s an active region, which is what makes it so beautiful and unique and is why I love it.”

Update from Futa Friends
The Chaiten Volcano, located in the Province of Palena in Southern Chile, erupted on May 5th 2008, spewing a cloud of ash that has covered the entire northern section of Patagonia, including the whitewater mecca of Futaleufu. Chaiten is a small, glacier-free caldera volcano with a summit elevation of 1122 meters who last erupted more than 9000 years ago. After a visit from President Michelle Bachelet, the Chilean government called for a complete evacuation of the area within 50 km of the volcano. The majority of the population of Futaleufu has left the region, evacuating to nearby Argentina or to refugee camps in Chiloe and Puerto Montt, Chile. Ash continues to cover the region, killing livestock, caving in rooftops, covering pastures and ruining private greenhouses.

People that decided to stay in the valley due to economic or cultural constraints are continuously inhaling the ash particulate and drinking contaminated water that will ultimately degrade their health. The volcano has yet to stop spewing ash. In the meantime, the government has organized an effective campaign to assist community members still living in the area. With the purpose of supporting the present government program, FutaFriends has initiated a funding campaign to relieve the economic burdens that people from the region will have upon returning to the Valley once the volcano becomes dormant. The campaign will support the implementation of an economic package for community members based on the reconstruction of locals homes, income-generation development, community restoration, and capacity-building for members of the Futaleufu Valley and neighboring communities. The region has suffered a tremendous environmental catastrophe and FutaFriends will work in unison with the government aid program to further strengthen the restoration process of northern Patagonia.

–Alan P. Grundy-Valenzuela, Executive Director, FutaFriends

To see how you can help, visit www.futafriends.org or www.exchile.com.

For a report from National Geographic click here.

Staff Posthttps://paddlinglife.com
Paddlers writing about all things paddling.

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