The Calbuco volcano has erupted for the first time in 42 years, billowing a huge ash cloud over a sparsely populated, mountainous area in southern Chile.
Chile’s Onemi emergency office declared a red alert following the sudden eruption at around 18.00 local time (21.00 GMT), which occurred about 1,000km (625 miles) south of Santiago, the capital, near the tourist towns of Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt.
An evacuation radius of 20km has been established, authorities said. As night fell, about 4,000 people had so far moved out of the area.
President Michelle Bachelet is scheduled to travel to the affected area on Thursday.
There are no reports of deaths, missing persons or injuries, interior minister Rodrigo Penailillo said. He urged residents to evacuate and warned of possible lahars, a mix of water and rock fragments that flow down a volcano’s slopes and river valleys.
“For us it was a surprise,” said Alejandro Verges, regional emergency director of the Los Lagos region, where the eruption took place. He said Calbuco was not under any special form of observation.
Authorities said a large amount of ash had been observed, but no hot rocks or lava so far. Winds blowing northeast were pushing the column of ash and smoke toward Argentina.
Calbuco last erupted in 1972 and is considered one of the top three most potentially dangerous of Chile’s 90 active volcanoes.
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