Argentina unveils economic help for volcano-hit region

Volunteers remove volcanic ash, brought by Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano, from the ground in Ingeniero Jacobacci in southern Argentina, on 20 June, 2011 Work has been continuing to clear up the mounds of ash

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Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has unveiled a range of measures to help people hit by last month's volcanic eruption in Chile.

Social benefits are to be doubled and tax payments deferred for two months in the hardest-hit areas of the country.

The Puyehue volcano, near the border with Argentina, spewed ash across a wide area, affecting tourism, air travel and agriculture.

Volcanic activity has now decreased, although some disruption continues.

The Puyehue-Cordon Caulle range erupted last month for the first time in decades.

Winds sent ash across South America, and as far afield as Australia and New Zealand, causing intermittent disruption to air travel.

One of the worst affected areas is the ski resort of Bariloche in southern Argentina, where grey ash fell on the slopes.

Handout picture released by European technology firm Astrium and captured by Spot 4 satellite shows smoke coming from a crater in the early stages of the eruption in June by the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic range The volcano had been quiet for many years before June's eruption

The timing of the eruption could not have been worse for the local economy, coming at the start of the ski season.

The National Institute for Agricultural Technology (INTA) has calculated that losses suffered by farmers in the southern province of Rio Negro totalled some 100m Argentine pesos ($24.3m, £15m).

Speaking on Monday, President Fernandez said that the region had suffered a "real tragedy".

She announced that a range of social benefits would would be doubled for 60 days.

People would also have longer to pay due taxes, she said.

Among other measures, there will also be help worth 10m pesos for 1,400 farmers.

The government is to continue to create jobs in the region to help with the clean-up.

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