Over 4,000 people have been evacuated after the Calbuco Volcano in Chilean Patagonia erupted twice yesterday.
The government declared a State of Emergency for the area, which includes the city of Puerto Montt, a transport hub and popular gateway to southern Chile.
An area 20km around the volcano has been cleared amid health concerns related to falling ash and smoke. Local schools have been closed and sports activities cancelled, while some flights have been affected.
Emergency measures are also being implemented across the Andes in Argentina, where towns such as Bariloche, Villa La Angostura, and San Martín de Los Andes have already been affected by ash clouds. Several flights to region have been cancelled today as a precaution (check here for details).
The Calbuco volcano, which had been largely dormant for over 50 years, erupted twice in the space of a few hours yesterday. The height of activity occurred in the early hours of the morning, when lava spewed out from the crater. The plume of smoke and ash rose up to 11km and was visible from space.
Experts from the National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) said that Calbuco is one of Chile’s most active volcanoes, but that they were surprised that the eruption came without clear warning signals.
“Volcanoes of this type usually give precursory warnings for a long time [before an eruption],” Sernageomin’s Hugo Moreno told La Tercera newspaper. “It’s very odd that it fired off in such a short space of time. It’s a strange phenomenon on a global scale.”
Sernageomin noted that the level of activity in the volcano had declined this morning, though there are still concerns that a third eruption could occur.