Communities near the Villarrica volcano in southern Chile on Wednesday are gradually getting back to normal after the eruption the day before, although authorities decided to keep the red alert in place in a radius of 10 km (6.2 mi.) around the mountain.
The Emergency Operations Committee, or COE – comprised of the Chilean government, the Sernageomin geology service and the Onemi national emergency office – decided to keep the area, located about 775 km (480 mi.) south of Santiago, on maximum alert.
Meanwhile, a yellow alert prevails in the towns of Villarrica, Pucon and Curarrehue, in the La Araucania region, and in Panguipulli in the Los Rios region.
Interior Minister Rodrigo Peñailillo said that the situation is being monitored on an ongoing basis and that new observation flights are scheduled near the crater of the volcano, which has shown reduced activity over the past 24 hours.
President Michelle Bachelet, who on Tuesday overflew the volcano area, on Wednesday praised the work of the people and entities involved in the operation to deal with the emergency, which has forced authorities to evacuate some 4,000 people.
“It shows that in Chile a true culture of emergency management is being built and that gives us greater security as a country,” said the president during an official event in Santiago.
Some people who were evacuated after the eruption and who live outside the 10 km radius returned to their homes or moved in temporarily with relatives.
Even so, authorities continue working to get certain residents living in the area where the red alert is in place to leave their homes after many of them refused to be evacuated.
Onemi officials in the town of Pucon, located about 15 km (9 mi.) from the volcano, reported that there are 160 people who were evacuated being housed in the shelters set up for the emergency.
Another 126 people were housed in two schools in Pucon, while 43 families who remained isolated near the volcano due to the damage sustained by a bridge were transferred to the homes of relatives with the help of the army.
In the neighboring town of Villarrica, some 25 km (16 mi.) from Pucon, there are 40 people being housed in various shelters, Onemi said.
Pucon has been getting back to normal little by little on Wednesday, but many of the tourists who visit the lakes and volcanoes in this part of Chile at this time of year left the zone a few hours after the eruption.
Patricio Gonzalez, the principal of Liahona High School, the largest in the Pucon, told Efe that – although the Education Ministry said that classes would resume throughout the region except at schools being used as shelters – local school authorities had decided to suspend classes for the remainder of the week.