The 100 million tons of ash and rock spewed by an Andean volcano has meant hundreds of millions of dollars in losses for communities accustomed to profiting from the dramatic mountain landscape. The Cordon Caulle volcano opened a new gash along a ridge just across the border and upwind from Argentina. For six weeks now, it has been belching ash into the sky, grounding flights across the lower third of South America for most of the winter tourist season.
"Every time the wind blows, no matter the direction, we get ash and sand," said the mayor of Villa La Angostura, a small lakeside town in the Andes. Only 62 of the town's 152 hotels are operating, and many of the visitors aren't high-paying skiers but volunteers helping to shovel out the mess. The Argentina government this week estimated losses at $150 million, and world airlines could lose another $50 million. (Read more Chile stories.)