Bloomberg News

Buenos Aires Airports Open as Chile Volcanic Ash Clears

June 15, 2011

(Updates airport status from second paragraph and volcanic activity from eighth paragraph.)

June 15 (Bloomberg) -- Buenos Aires’s two main airports resumed operations as winds and rain clear volcanic ash that disrupted flights from South America to Australia and prompted Argentina to declare an agricultural emergency.

Inbound and outbound flights from Ezeiza, the capital’s major international airport, have been operating since 11 p.m. New York time last night and Aeroparque, which handles mainly domestic flights, is functioning normally, a press official for Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 SA said.

Damage to livestock and crops from ash that started spewing from the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic complex in southern Chile on June 4 led Argentina to declare an agriculture emergency in the southern provinces of Rio Negro, Chubut and Neuquen. The decision, announced on the presidential website today, entitles farmers to financial aid.

“We’ll have a lot fewer animals because there won’t be enough fodder for them, and wool will be of low quality,” said Edgar Contin, vice president of the Rural Federation Society of Rio Negro, in a telephone interview. Ashes accumulated on sheep’s coats are weighing them down so much that when they “try to run they fall over and we have to help them get up again.”

Sheep, Cattle

Contin said it’s too early to calculate losses among the 300,000 sheep and 30,000 head of cattle in Rio Negro. Parts of the province are covered by 20 centimeters (eight inches) of ash, he said.

The ash cloud in Argentina isn’t impacting the capital city and instead is in the country’s south moving east, the Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 official said. Four of 73 planned arrivals at the international airport were cancelled today and five of 82 departures were called off, the official said.

Chile’s airports are all operating normally, the country’s aeronautical authority, known as DGAC, said in an e-mailed statement today.

The volcanic complex is still active as authorities have observed on average four temblors an hour and an ash cloud as long as three miles blowing in an east-southeasterly direction from the area, Chile’s geological and mining authority, known as Sernageomin, said in a statement on its website today.

“Eruptions continue and it is possible activity could increase,” it said in the statement, characterizing the eruptions as “moderate.”

Sernageomin also warned of mudslides and winds that could cause ash to fall on populated areas in the country’s south.

Australia and New Zealand face a fifth day of disruptions tomorrow because of ash blown across the Pacific. Air New Zealand Ltd. today joined Qantas Airways Ltd. and Virgin Australia in curtailing flights on concerns about volcanic ash, which can clog jet engines.

United Continental Holdings Inc, Delta Air Lines Inc. and AMR Corp.’s American Airlines are operating normally to and from Argentina, officials at all three airlines said.

Most flights out of Montevideo’s international airport, including to Buenos Aires, are departing, according to the airport’s website.

The disruptions won’t affect the Copa America, South America’s continental soccer championship, which is due to start in Argentina on July 1, according to a statement on the Argentine Soccer Association’s website.

Lan Airlines

Santiago-based Lan Airlines SA, Latin America’s biggest airline by market value, has reopened flights to and from Buenos Aires and has reestablished travel to Montevideo, it said in a statement today on its website.

The airline, which is giving customers until Sept. 14 to reschedule travel plans that have been impacted by cancellations, temporarily scrapped trips to Auckland and Sydney because of ash clouds, it said.

Lan yesterday afternoon restarted flights to the Argentine cities of Cordoba and Mendoza, it said in a statement last night.

Air NZ canceled all flights to Christchurch and points further south until at least 7:30 a.m. tomorrow, it said on its website. Qantas extended a suspension of New Zealand flights through to noon tomorrow. It plans to resume Perth and Tasmania services tomorrow following shutdowns caused by the ash cloud.

Virgin Australia and affiliates today halted Christchurch and Wellington flights through 9 a.m. tomorrow and Perth flights through noon tomorrow.

--With assistance from Manuel Baigorri in Madrid, Robert Fenner in Melbourne, Dan Baynes in Sydney, Randall Woods in Santiago and Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas. Editors: Richard Jarvie, Bill Faries

To contact the reporters on this story: Eliana Raszewski in Buenos Aires at eraszewski@bloomberg.net; Rodrigo Orihuela in Buenos Aires at rorihuela@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net


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