Rio Chaitén Bridge
Rio Chaitén is located 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) due south of Chaitén
volcano. The area was inundated by a large volume of sediment triggered by
intense rainfall following the eruption, which flooded the town and deposited
1 to 2 meters (3 to 6 feet) of sand and gravel. Much of the material in these
deposits originated as tephra fall in the steep headwaters of the Rio Chaiten.
Fortunately, residents were evacuated in the first days of the eruption,
so the town was not occupied at the time of flooding. Residents began returning
to the town within months, despite threats of further flooding and eruptions
and efforts by the government to prevent resettlement. Government-sanctioned
recovery began in early 2011, when workers began restoring power lines, streets,
and the water supply.
The threat of further volcanic damage was made clear
on February 19, 2009, when part of the volcano’s new lava dome collapsed,
sending a large volume of hot rock down the Rio Chaitén and to within
3 kilometers (1.8 miles) of the town. Since the initial eruption, the river
to transport large amounts of sediment to the Gulf of Corcavado, building
an extensive delta on the west side of the town that threatens to restrict
access to the ferry port. However, the risk of further damage to the town
has been greatly reduced through engineering projects that have heavily armored
the channel banks.
Click photos to enlarge.