Thousands evacuated as volcano erupts in Chile

People watch from Puerto Varas, southern Chile, a high column of ash and lava spewing from the Calbuco volcano, on April 22, 2015

People watch from Puerto Varas, southern Chile, a high column of ash and lava spewing from the Calbuco volcano, on April 22, 2015

The Calbuco volcano in southern Chile has erupted for the first time in more than four decades, sending a plume of smoke and ash several kilometres high

(SOURCE)  Emergency services declared a red alert and about 1,500 people were evacuated from the nearby town of Ensenada as a precaution, authorities said.

Calbuco is near the tourist town of Puerto Varas, about 1,000km (625 miles) south of the capital Santiago.

Among Chile’s most active volcanoes in the past, it last erupted in 1972.

Authorities said no hot rocks or lava had been seen so far, only ash.

Alejandro Verges, a local emergency director, told the Associated Press that the eruption came as a surprise.

View from Puerto Varas, southern Chile, of a high column of ash and lava spewing from the Calbuco volcano, on April 22, 2015.

People in the town of Puerto Varas look on at the volcano’s huge ash cloud

Chile’s National Emergency Office ordered an evacuation in a 20km radius and flights over the volcano were suspended.

“There are a lot of people out in the streets, many heading to the gas stations to fill up,” Derek Way, a resident of Puerto Varas, told Reuters.

Chile has the second largest chain of volcanoes in the world after Indonesia, with about 500 that are potentially active.

It is southern Chile’s second volcanic eruption in as many months. In March, the Villarrica volcano erupted in the early hours of the morning, spewing ash and lava.

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