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The town of Chaitén in 2007
The town of Chaitén in 2007

Coat of arms
Location of Chaitén commune in Los Lagos Region
Chaitén is located in Chile
Location in Chile
Coordinates (city): 42°55′0″S 72°42′0″W / 42.91667°S 72.70000°W / -42.91667; -72.70000Coordinates: 42°55′0″S 72°42′0″W / 42.91667°S 72.70000°W / -42.91667; -72.70000
RegionLos Lagos
EvacuatedMay 2008
 • TypeMunicipality
 • AlcaldePedro Vásquez Celedón (ILE)
 • Town and Commune8,470.5 km2 (3,270.5 sq mi)
12 m (39 ft)
 (2012 census)
 • Town and Commune3,347
 • Density0.40/km2 (1.0/sq mi)
 • Urban
Time zoneUTC-4 (CLT[1])
 • Summer (DST)UTC-3 (CLST[2])
Area codecountry 56 + city = 65

Chaitén (/ˈtɛn/, chy-TEN) is a Chilean town, commune and former capital of the Palena Province in Los Lagos Region. The town is north of the mouth of Yelcho River, on the east coast of the Gulf of Corcovado. The town is strategically close to the northern end of the Carretera Austral, where the highway goes inland. The Desertores Islands are part of the commune.


The river's new course shown in the center of the image. North is to the left.
Following the eruption of the Chaitén volcano, a lahar destroyed much of the town of Chaitén.

The town was evacuated in May 2008 when the Chaitén volcano erupted for the first time in more than 9,000 years.[3][4] The eruption, which commenced May 2, became more violent on May 5,[5] throwing up a high plume of ash and sulfurous steam that rose to 19 miles (31 km), from which ashfall drifted across Patagonia and over the Atlantic Ocean.[6] During 2005 small earthquakes occurred below Chaitén and the nearby Liquiñe-Ofqui Fault Zone.[7]

The town was completely flooded on May 12, 2008, after a lahar caused the banks of the Blanco River to overflow about 200 m (660 ft) on each side.[8] Over the subsequent weeks, the river excavated a new course through Chaitén, completely destroying a significant part of it by July 2008. This process is still ongoing; it is unclear how extensive the damage will ultimately be. Some defensive work has been undertaken by the government, but they ultimately decided to abandon the town, relocating and compensating all residents.[9] The provincial capital was provisionally moved to Futaleufú after the eruption breakout, but the capital shift was later on declared permanent. The future of the town has become a matter of political controversy in Chile.

Reconstruction of Chaitén[edit]

On February 25, 2009, the government announced plans to rebuild Chaitén 10 km (6.2 mi) north of its current location in a coastal place known as Santa Bárbara or "Fandango Norte".[10] On March 3, 2009, construction work on the new town's administrative facilities started.[11]

On April 9, 2011, president Sebastián Piñera announced a program to rebuild the town on its existing northern area, reversing plans by the previous administration to move the town to a different location farther north.[12]

Nearby attractions[edit]

Nearby attractions include:


  1. ^ "Chile Time". Archived from the original on 11 September 2007. Retrieved 26 September 2010.
  2. ^ "Chile Summer Time". Archived from the original on 11 September 2007. Retrieved 26 September 2010.
  3. ^ The Global Volcanism Program reports that previously assessed radiocarbon dating of the last lava flow from Chaitén has suggested that the volcano last erupted in 7420 BC, plus or minus 75 years. (NASA, "Earth Observatory Natural Hazards Archived May 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine)
  4. ^ Naranjo, José A.; José A. Naranjo; Charles R. Stern (December 2004). "Holocene tephrochronology of the southernmost part (42°30'-45°S) of the Andean Southern Volcanic Zone". Revista Geológica de Chile. Santiago, Chile: Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería. 31 (2): 225–240. doi:10.4067/S0716-02082004000200003.
  5. ^ (Times online) "4,000 evacuated as volcano blast meets storm in the Chilean sky" May 6, 2008.
  6. ^ NASA, "Earth Observatory Natural Hazards plume visible from space]
  7. ^ Lange, D.; Cembrano, J.; Rietbrock, A.; Haberland, C.; Dahm, T.; Bataille, K (April 2008). "First seismic record for intra-arc strike-slip tectonics along the Liquiñe-Ofqui fault zone at the obliquely convergent plate margin of the southern Andes". Tectonophysics. 455 (1–4): 14. Bibcode:2008Tectp.455...14L. doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2008.04.014. hdl:10533/139825.
  8. ^ Global Volcanism Program | Chaitén | SI / USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Reports
  9. ^ La Nacion "Gobierno no reconstruirá Chaitén y prepara relocalización", 2009 Jan 30
  10. ^ [1] Archived March 1, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Comienzan los trabajos para la construcción de centro cívico de nueva Chaitén". 2010-02-25. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
  12. ^ Piñera oficializa refundación de Chaitén en sector norte de la ciudad, El Mercurio, April 9, 2011.