Chilean volcano erupts, thousands evacuated

Four thousand residents evacuated, flights suspended as erupting volcano disrupts life in Southern Chile

Photo by: TRT WORLD
Photo by: TRT WORLD

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The Calbuco volcano in Southern Chile erupted on Wednesday for the first time since Aug. 1972, spewing ash and smoke into the sky and causing fear among the area’s residents.

The Chilean National Office of Emergency of the Interior Ministry (ONEMI), announced a red alert around 6 pm local time (9 pm GMT) following the eruption that occurred near Puerto Varas, about 1,000 kilometers south of the capital, Santiago.

More than 4,000 people were evacuated from within a 20-kilometer radius by Chilean officials and the army was called to temporarily control the town of Puerto Octay and the province of Llanquihue.

Interior Minister Rodrigo Penaillillo announced that there were no reports of deaths, missing persons or injuries. “I would like to call on the population to remain calm and stay informed,” he said.

The Education Ministry cancelled school in nearby areas, while LATAM Airlines put a hold on flights to and from Puerto Mott, the area’s largest city, as volcanic ash in the air can damage aircraft and make flying a risky endeavour.

Television images show an enormous mushroom-shaped cloud in the sky that turned pink and yellow during sunset. The evacuation, as seen on television, created traffic jams and long lines to buy gas.

The Calbuco volcano is located in the Los Lagos region in Southern Chile. The 2,000-meter volcano last erupted nearly 43 years ago and is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the country.

One of the most active volcanoes in South America, Villarica, erupted in March forcing Chilean authorities to evacuate thousands of area residents.

However, Penailillo said bigger and faster measures were needed this time because the Calbuco eruption “is clearly a much larger eruption than the one we saw with the Villarica some weeks ago.”

Located on the Pacific “Rim of Fire,” Chile has the second largest chain of volcanoes in the world after Indonesia.

TRTWorld and agencies