Chilean authorities are considering the possibility that Region Xâ€™s ChaitÃ©n Volcano, now in its eighth day of continuous eruption, might collapse and thus release a torrent of red-hot pyroclastic material (burning gas and rock) that could devastate the surrounding area.Â
Very much a â€˜worst case scenario,â€™ the possibility is nevertheless a very real one, vulcanologist Luis Lara of Chileâ€™s National Geologic and Mining Service (SERNAGEOMIN) told reporters Thursday afternoon.
â€˜Thatâ€™s precisely the reason we recommended that authorities define a restricted area, because this is a real possibility with volcanoes that are similar to ChaitÃ©n. We canâ€™t offer any kind of probability that this will happen, or say for sure how things will play out. Itâ€™s a worst case scenario,â€™ said Lara.
There is indeed precedent for such concern, according to the SERNAGEOMIN official, who pointed out that similar volcanoes â€“ in Mexico and the Philippines, for example â€“ have collapsed on the seventh or eight day of continuous eruption.
â€˜Pompeii is in some ways similar,â€™ said Lara, referring to the Roman city famously destroyed in AD 79 by Mount Vesuvius. â€˜There was a pyroclastic flow that resulted in the consequences we all know. Thatâ€™s exactly the worst case scenario that weâ€™ve defined here.â€™