Volcano Calbuco in southern Chile has erupted for the first time in more than five decades, sending a thick plume of ash and smoke several kilometers into the sky.
Chile’s Onemi emergency office declared a red alert following the sudden eruption at around 1800 local time (2100 GMT), which occurred about 1,000 km south of the capital Santiago near the tourist town of Puerto Varas.
The volcano is only 100 km away from the Argentine city of Bariloche. María Eugenia Martini, Mayor of the Río Negro city, summoned an emergency committee as volcanic ash was expected to arrive in the area. Bariloche’s airport was closed and school was suspended.
About 1,500 people were being moved out of the area in Chile and an evacuation radius of 20 kilometers has been established, authorities said.
Trevor Moffat, who lives in Ensenada, some 10 kilometers from the volcano, said the eruption happened without warning. Volcano Calbuco’s last major eruption happened in 1961.
“It sounded like a big tractor trailer passing by the road, rattling and shaking, guttural rumbling … we left everything there, grabbed my kid, my dog, got in the car with my wife,” said Moffat.
“All the neighbors were outside, a lot of young people crying. Armageddon type reaction,” said Canada-born Moffat, who was driving to nearby Puerto Varas.
Television pictures showed a spectacular mushroom-shaped column billowing into the sky with occasional lighting bolts shooting through. The eruption was seen in other towns at least 50 kilometers away.
“There are a lot of people out in the streets, many heading to the gas stations to fill up on gas,” Derek Way, a resident of Puerto Varas, told reporters.
“A friend told me to fill everything we have with water,” said Way.
Chile, on the Pacific ‘Rim of Fire’, has the second largest chain of volcanoes in the world after Indonesia, including around 500 that are potentially active.
In March, volcano Villarrica, also in southern Chile, erupted in spectacular fashion, sending a plume of ash and lava high into the sky, but quickly subsided.
Source: Buenos Aires Herald