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Chile volcano erupts for first time in decades

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chile volcanoA volcano in Chile that had been inactive for over 50 years suddenly erupted twice in the space of hours, blasting huge clouds of ash into the air and forcing the evacuation of around 5,000 people.

There were no immediate reports of injuries after the eruptions from the Calbuco volcano in southern Chile Wednesday evening and then again seven hours later, early Thursday.

A state of emergency was declared after the first eruption, and air traffic was disrupted.

Chilean TV aired spectacular footage of ash, bright orange flames and flaming rocks belching from the mouth of the volcano.

The first eruption spewed a giant mushroom of ash 10 kilometers (six miles) into the sky. Ash reached neighboring Argentina, where officials started taking emergency measures.

Calbuco had been dormant for 54 years, officials said.

Officials ordered an evacuation for a 20-kilometer radius around the volcano and the interior ministry rushed in the army to temporarily take control of the province of Llanquihue and the town of Puerto Octay.

The National Geology and Mining Service said the volcano might start oozing lava, raising the possibility of mountain-top snow and ice melting, causing floods and raising water levels in rivers.

It said a third eruption was likely over the next few hours.

President Michelle Bachelet said she would travel to the affected area Thursday along with several ministers.

“The ash might damage crops, animal feed, bridges, roads, people’s work routines, tourism and especially their health,” Bachelet said.

The first eruption lasted nearly 90 minutes, vulcanologist Gabriel Orozco of the geology service said.

On a 0-8 scale measuring volcano eruption strength, the first one came in at four or five, Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said.

The second one was just about as powerful, the ministry said.

It said there were no immediate reports of people hurt or missing.

Until minutes right before the blast, volcano eruption monitoring systems had picked up nothing. In fact, volcano watchers in Chile had been watching another one, Villarica also in the south, for a possible eruption.


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