The mystery of the purple cloud that appeared in the north of Chile
The substance was reportedly composed of iodine vapor and originated from a pump failure, which triggered an environmental emergency.
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A purple cloud of smoke that appeared in northern Chile over the weekend originated at the Cala Cala mine, Compañía de Salitre y Yodo, very close to the town of Pozo Almonte, located 1,470 kilometers north of Santiago, the country's capital.
The appearance of the purple cloud generated fear in the community, which forced the regional authorities to address the situation.
"We are carrying out an inspection process, which shows us that this fact is due to the failure of a motor of the booster pump," said the Deputy Regional Director of Tarapacá, Christian Ibáñez.
Emanuel Ibarra, Superintendent of the Environment confirmed that one of the company's pumps failed and the iodine went from solid to a gaseous state. This caused a purple cloud in the northern part of the country.
Early in the morning, the Pozo Almonte fire department also arrived at the site to assess the situation. Efraín Lillo, superintendent of the fire department stated that "from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. it was emanating from the plant," while National Emergency Office of the Ministry of the Interior (Onemi) Director Álvaro Hormazábal, said that notice of this event was given in the morning hours of Sunday, Aug. 21, which required the mobilization of technical and health teams.
"The teams were constituted in the field and we had a meeting with all the services to be able to guarantee that, up to now, no consultations or medical affectations have been registered as a result of the situation we are experiencing," said the Presidential Delegate of the Tarapacá region, Daniel Quinteros.
Quinteros, in view of the emergency, the government is considering sanctions against those responsible.
"We are also in contact with the Superintendency of the Environment so that tomorrow we can evaluate the presentation of a complaint for non-compliance with the regulations and the commitments acquired by the company in environmental matters," he assured.
He maintained that the Chilean government is "ecological" and "does not admit that current regulations are not complied with and we are not going to rest on that." Although they assured that the cloud has dispersed, the safety teams and evaluators will remain on the ground for 48 hours assessing the situation.