SANTIAGO, Chile — The ash cloud from a Chilean volcano that has been erupting for nearly two weeks has circled the globe and come home again.
The returning cloud — which has disrupted flights in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Australia and New Zealand on its around-the-world trip — on Friday forced Chilean officials to cancel domestic flights for the first time since the Cordon Caulle volcano began erupting June 4.
LAN airlines suspended flights to the cities of Puerto Montt, Coyhaique and Punta Arenas in the far south of the South American country. While ash from Cordon Caulle has wreaked havoc with air travel abroad, it had left Chile's internal flights largely untouched until Friday.
"The tip of the cloud that has traveled around the world is more or less in front of Coyhaique," said Civil Aviation Office chief Pablo Ortega. Coyhaique is 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of the volcano.
Chilean authorities evacuated 3,500 people living near the volcano after it began erupting but some have since returned.
The governor of Ranco province, Eduardo Holck, said the volcano is emitting a fine ash that is scattering over the Nilahue river valley.
The government, however, maintained a red alert for communities near Cordon Caulle. Chile's National Geology and Mines Service warned that volcanic activity could begin again "with episodes similar or greater in intensity that was has occurred."