I arrived in Chaitén late last night, a small town about 160 kilometers south of the port city of Puerto Montt, which made headlines in May 2008 when the nearby volcano that bears the town’s name woke from a 9,370-year slumber. Over its month-long eruption, it blew a column of ash and hot gases nearly 31 kilometers into the sky and spewed ash as far as Buenos Aires. Half the town was destroyed, and nearly five years later, much of that damage is still clearly visible.
Here are some shots I took during a walk in the southern part of town a few hours ago. Some of these abandoned homes are buried in ash and mud that’s nearly a meter high. Much of the damage was done in the weeks after the eruption when the Blanco River, swollen with rain and volcanic material, flooded its banks, leaving trees and gray mud over half the town. The river eventually forged a new course, leaving more destruction in its wake. To the west a vast swath of land along the Gulf of Corcovado was transformed into a doomsday-like lunar landscape.
I’ll be going back later to get more shots and some video in better early evening light.