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Residents Return Home After Evacuation Due to Volcano

December 26, 1988

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Hundreds of residents of a small Andean town in southern Chile returned to their homes Monday after authorities said the weekend eruption of a nearby volcano posed no danger.

The Lonquimay volcano near the town of Malalcahuello, 415 miles south of Santiago, erupted Sunday for the first time in a century.

Police said about half the population of Malalcahuello - estimated at 500 to 800 - had returned by Monday morning, while the snow-capped, 8,400-foot volcano continued to spew smoke and lava from three fissures near its base.

″The situation now is calm and under total control,″ said a report by the national police force in Santiago. It said police patrols were continuing to monitor the volcano by air and land.

The provincial governor, army Gen. Alejandro Gonzalez, authorized the return of Malalcahuello’s residents after flying over the volcano Sunday with experts from a regional university.

Some residents remained at municipal buildings in the city of Curacautin, 50 miles away, police said.

The government’s National Emergency Office, in announcing Sunday’s evacuation, called it ″just a precaution.″ It said some residents also left Lolco, another town near the volcano.

The volcano erupted through three separate craters near its base. Police said the largest crater, with a diameter of around 130 feet, continued to spew lava and thick smoke Monday.

The eruption followed a series of earthquakes that rocked the area during the past week. Flor Verdugo, a teacher who owns the only telephone in Malalcahuello, said there were three heavy tremors shortly before the eruption.

Pedro Riffo, a volcano expert at the University of Temuco, the largest city in the area, said the last registered eruption of the Lonquimay occurred in 1889.

He said Malalcahuello, the closest town to the volcano, is ringed by a chain of mountains that serve as a natural defense wall.

Riffo said three other volcanos exist in the area, but only one of them, El Llaima, has shown actitvity in recent years.

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