Villarica volcano erupts in southern Chile, thousands flee

SHARE Villarica volcano erupts in southern Chile, thousands flee
SHARE Villarica volcano erupts in southern Chile, thousands flee

SANTIAGO, Chile — A volcano in southern Chile erupted early Tuesday, spewing heavy smoke and lava and prompting officials to evacuate thousands of people in the surrounding area.

The Villarica volcano erupted around 3 a.m., according to the National Emergency Office, which issued a red alert and ordered evacuations. Local media showed images of the volcano bursting at the top, tossing laving and heavy smoke into the air.

Villarica is one of South America’s most active volcanoes. The 9,000 foot (2,847-meter) volcano in Chile’s central valley, 400 miles (670 kilometers) south of Santiago, sits above the small city of Pucon. Tourists flock there for outdoor activities, including hiking around the volcano, which last had a major eruption in 1984.

President Michelle Bachelet announced that she will travel to the volcano-hit area and asked residents to remain calm.

Chilean authorities had issued an orange alert on Monday because of increased activity at the volcano. About 3,500 people have been evacuated so far, including tourists, said Interior and Security Minister Rodrigo Penailillo.

Chile has more than 2,000 volcanoes in the Andes cordillera and about 90 of them remain active.

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