Volcanic ash dusts Argentine capital, cuts flights

June 9, 2011 - 12:15 PM
Argentina Chile Volcano

Two women rest at Jorge Newbery airport where flights were canceled or delayed due to a volcanic ash cloud that reached Argentina's capital grounding most air travel in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday, June 9, 2011. The wind carried volcanic ash across the Andes to Argentina after the Chilean Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano erupted Saturday, resulting in the closing of six airports, and the cancellation of flights. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Ash from a Chilean volcano fell across a wide swath of Latin America on Thursday, forcing cancellation of dozens of flights and grounding the presidents of Argentina and Uruguay.

The ash dusted the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo as well as Argentina's Buenos Aires, roughly 850 miles (1,360 kilometers) northeast of the Cordon Caulle volcano that began erupting through a gash in the earth on Saturday.

Volcanic ash can damage airline engines, so many flights were canceled. Even Argentine President Cristina Fernandez was forced to use a car rather than a helicopter to get to work on Thursday. Her planned meeting with Uruguayan leader Jose Mujica was scrapped because he was unable to fly to Buenos Aires.

Argentina's transport ministry said at least seven regional airports were closed until it is safe to reopen them.

Chilean officials earlier evacuated about 3,500 people who live near the volcano, which was still spewing gas and ash on Thursday.