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According to Currie and others, the confusion between devastated areas like Chaitén and less affected ones can be traced, in part, to the media. When he visited the town of Futaleufú, he met with the mayor, Arturo Carvallo, and the two observed a Chilean television crew standing in a pile of collected ash and filming under a tree, which they shook so ash appeared to fall from the sky.

"In one sense, the exaggeration is good for the people because they get all this support from the government," Currie explained. Indeed, the government plans to give each displaced resident of Chaitén and other destroyed areas about $1,100 to help them start over. "And it’s put the Fu on the map for Chileans. But on the other hand, it could be a green light for the mining and hydroelectric companies."

Even before the blast, the call for these development projects was ramping up due to a nascent energy crisis in Chile, a changing political climate, and deteriorating relations with Argentina (one of Chile’s main energy providers, which has already dammed its section of the Fu). Just days after the eruption, critics of Pumalín Park unearthed a road-building proposal. They claimed that a road through the park would have facilitated evacuation and that construction should now be reconsidered. Around Futaleufú, preservation-minded residents fear a renewed push for major development projects: an open-pit gold mine near the Espolón River that would almost certainly poison the Fu’s waters with cyanide, and a hydroelectric dam on the Fu’s Chilean headwaters that would snuff out the river’s legendary rapids.

With memories of the Bío-Bío River—a whitewater darling about 300 miles north that was dammed into extinction in 1998—still fresh, advocates are imploring tourists (and their antidevelopment dollars) to return. Results have been mixed. Already, Eric Hertz, Earth River’s owner, and Marc Goddard, owner of Bio Bio Expeditions, another major outfitter on the Fu, admit that they’ve been on the phone trying to stem cancellations for the upcoming season. If the 4,000 rafters and kayakers who annually visit the Fu don’t show, says Hertz, the confusion over the river’s actual condition "will have done a lot more damage to the area than the volcano."

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