Friday, July 8, 2011

Ash and lightning as Chile's Puyehue volcano erupts

A volcano dormant for decades has erupted in south-central Chile, belching an ash cloud more than 6 miles high. Officials said the volcano was spitting molten rock, but there was no visible lava flow.

Chile's government said on Sunday it was evacuating 3,500 people from the surrounding area as a precaution.

Meanwhile, ash clouds fanned by easterly winds blew over the Andes, carpeting several cities in neighbouring Argentina and closing a local airport at tourist resort San Carlos de Bariloche.

The eruption in the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic chain near Osorno, about 575 miles south of capital Santiago, also prompted Chilean authorities to shut a heavily travelled border crossing into Argentina.

The chain last saw a major eruption in 1960, although Chile has experienced a series of volcanic eruptions in recent years.

Chile's Chaiten volcano erupted spectacularly in 2008 for the first time in thousands of years, spewing molten rock and a vast cloud of ash that reached the stratosphere. The Llaima volcano, one of South America's most active also erupted in 2008 and 2009.

Chile has a chain of about 2,000 volcanoes, the world's second largest after Indonesia. Some 50 to 60 are on record as having erupted, and 500 are potentially active.

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