Image: Chile-Argentina border
Roberto Candia  /  AP
A Chilean police car drives along the international border cross way Cardenal Samore, connecting Chile and Argentina, covered by snow and ashes after the eruption of the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano in Chile.
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updated 6/10/2011 1:51:12 PM ET 2011-06-10T17:51:12

The principal airports of Argentina and Uruguay are closed and rivers are about to overflow in Chile due to a volcano that began erupting nearly a week ago.

In the southern Argentine resort city of San Carlos de Bariloche, workers have filled 600 dump trucks with ash that had fallen on the main runway.

Buenos Aires authorities say they hope the capital's main airports will be open by Friday evening, when the ash cloud is expected to drift away from the city. The ash can damage airplane engines.

The ash dusted streets in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo as well as Argentina's Buenos Aires, roughly 850 miles 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 between the capitals of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil.

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. A meeting in Argentina of South American central bankers and economy ministers also was called off.

Argentina's transport ministry said regional airports serving at least 12 cities closer to the volcano will remain closed until Tuesday or later, due to safety concerns.

About 4,000 evacuees from Chilean towns and farms near the volcano were kept away from home Thursday as gas and ash continued to spew from a wide fissure along the a ridge between two volcanic peaks. Steady rains mixed with the ash and snow to create a slippery mess, spoiling water sources for some 9,000 cows and sheep and threatening to cause flooding along rivers coursing down from snowy mountaintops. Usually frigid river water was measured at a steamy 113 degrees Fahrenheit in places.

Slideshow: Volcano eruption in Chile (on this page)

Aerolineas Argentinas, Austral and LAN airlines canceled nearly all their international and domestic flights in or out of Argentina on Thursday, and other leading international carriers were cancelling or rerouting flights on a case-by-case basis. Flights to and from Buenos Aires on United Airlines, Iberia, Lufthansa, Delta, British Airways, Avianca and TACA were canceled; one flight on American Airlines was rerouted; the international airport's web site didn't say where.

At least two-dozen flights from six Brazilian cities to Chile, Argentina and Uruguay also were canceled. Airport chiefs in Santiago and Asuncion said similar flights from Chile and Paraguay also were grounded.

The ash plume seems to be "nailed down" over the Argentine capital with prevailing northerly winds dying down, Transportation Secretary Juan Pablo Schiavi said. Argentina's national weather service said the ash is mostly floating at an altitude of more than 19,000 feet, in the path of long-distance flights.

Associated Press Writers Federico Quilodran in Chile, Raul Garces in Uruguay, Pedro Servin in Paraguay and Marco Sibaja in Brazil contributed to this story.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Volcano eruption in Chile

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  1. The Puyehue-Cordón Caulle Volcano on Sunday, June 13. The volcano erupted on June 4, sending clouds of ash high into the atmosphere. Within 48 hours of eruption, the plume measured 50,000 feet above the Earth, high enough to pass above the weather that usually breaks up lower lying ash plumes. At this high altitude, the ash entered the jetstream, which carried it rapidly eastward. (MODIS Terra satellite / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A French tourist sits on her luggage at the Jorge Newbery Airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on June 7 after her flight to Uruguay was cancelled due to an ash cloud from Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano chain. The wind carried volcanic ash across the Andes to Argentina resulting in the closure of six airports. The volcano dormant for decades erupted in south-central Chile on June 4 (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. The Gol-Gol River in Chile is covered with volcanic ash from the erupting Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano on June 7. (Alvaro Vidal / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A man walks on a road covered with ash from the volcano in Puyehue, Chile on June 7. (Ian Salas / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A member of the Chilean armed forces pushes a car on a road covered with ash at the Cardenal Samore border pass between Argentina and Chile on June 7. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A traffic sign is covered with ash in Puyehue on June 7. (Ian Salas / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Residents pass army trucks as they are evacuated from the area around the erupting volcano in Pichico, near Lago Ranco, on June 7. Around 3,500 people were evacuated as the volcano sent a towering plume of ash into the air. (Carlos Succo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A plume of light-coloured ash stretches along the edge of the Andes in this satellite image acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra spacecraft on the morning of June 6, as the eruption at the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano chain continues. (NASA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Residents of Rininahue look at a plume of smoke and ash merging from the volcano near Lago Ranco on June 6. The volcano was calm on Monday, two days after raining down ash and forcing thousands to flee, although the cloud of soot it had belched out still darkened skies as far away as Argentina. (Carlos Succo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A pumice rock belched out by the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle chain volcano is shown near the Cardenal Samore border pass between Argentina and Chile on June 6. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. An aircraft is stranded on the tarmac at an airport in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, on June 6. A volcano dormant for decades erupted in south-central Chile on Saturday, belching an ash cloud more than 6 miles high that blew over the Andes and carpeted a resort town in neighboring Argentina. (Chiwi Giambirtone / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. An inhabitant of the region near the erupting volcano looks out from a shelter in Entrelagos town on June 6, after residents were evacuated. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Rosehip covered in ash from Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano chain are seen in the mountain resort of San Martin de Los Andes in Argentina on June 6. (Patricio Rodriguez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A man covers his face as he walks through an ash-covered street of the mountain resort of San Martin de Los Andes in Argentina on June 6. (Patricio Rodriguez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. An overview of the ash-covered mountain resort of San Martin de Los Andes in Argentina on June 6. (Patricio Rodriguez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A man removes ash that fell on the roof of his house in Villa Campanario, near San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, on June 6. (Francisco Ramos Mejia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A view of the ash plume at sunset above the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano chain near Entrelagos on June 5. (Carlos Gutierrez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. An electric storm lights up the sky on June 5, after a volcano in the Caulle Cordon area of southern Chile erupted violently, billowing smoke and ash high into the sky and prompting more than 3,500 people to evacuate. (Daniel Basualto / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A giant ash cloud rises after the eruption of the volcano in the Los Rios region on June 5. (Ian Salas / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Lightning strikes above the Caulle Cordon volcanic chain on June 5. It was not immediately clear which of the chain's four volcanoes had erupted because of ash cover and weather conditions. The chain last saw a major eruption in 1960. (Francisco Negroni / Agencia Uno via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. An eerie show of lightning is seen above the volcanic chain on June 5. Chile is home to about 2,000 volcanoes, second only to Indonesia. Some 50 to 60 are on record as having erupted, and 500 are potentially active. (Francisco Negroni / Agencia Uno via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Lightning is seen amid a cloud of ash on June 5. Chile said the explosion that sparked the eruption also produced a column of gas six miles high. (Claudio Santana / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A cloud of ash three miles wide rises into the sky on June 5. (Ian Salas / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Policemen gather as smoke and ash rise from the volcanic chain on June 5. Most of the residents in 22 nearby settlements evacuated when the eruption began on Saturday afternoon. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A car is covered in volcanic ash in San Carlos de Bariloche, southern Argentina, on June 5. The wind carried ash across the Andes to Argentina, dusting this tourist town, which had to close its airport. (Alfredo Leiva / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Ash dusts the fairways of the Llao Llao Hotel golf course in Bariloche, Argentina, on June 5. (Francisco Ramos Mejia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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