A volcano in Villarrica, southern Chile erupted early Tuesday morning, spewing lava into the sky and causing about 3,500 people to evacuate. The volcano, which is one of South America's most active, sent ash and smoke 3,300 feet into the air at about 3 a.m. local time. It did not cause any injuries to people or damage to infrastructure, according to the Chilean e-news Emol.com.
The volcano quieted about 20 minutes after the initial eruption. There's no ash, no lava flow, the volcano is totally passive at the moment, local mayor Carlos Parra was quoted by local media.
Authorities have reportedly called an emergency meeting to debate how to proceed. President Michelle Bachelet announced plans to visit the area and urged people to keep calm. The National Emergency Office put out a red alert warning tourists and residents to stay away. We are at the foot of the canyon making decisions, Parra said.
The incident did not come as surprise. Emol.com reported the volcano had been increasingly active in recent weeks, and officials had issued an orange alert Monday. School in the nearby towns of Pucon, Curarrehue and Villarrica was canceled, and residents evacuated as a precaution.
Going forward, ash -- not lava -- is the biggest issue because it can be spread easily by high winds. It looks as though whatever ash there is should pass well south of Buenos Aires and mostly across the more sparsely populated parts of Argentina, said AccuWeather meteorologist Jason Nicholls.
The Villarrica volcano lies about 750 kilometers south of Chile's capital, Santiago. When the volcano erupted Tuesday morning, several local residents and media caught it on camera and quickly went viral in social media.
Chile is situated in an area known as the Pacific Rim of Fire and has the second largest chain of volcanoes in the world after Indonesia, including around 500 that are potentially active. Thirty-six are currently active and in the last 20 years, there have been 15 volcanic eruptions.
Most large volcanoes in Chile are strato-volcanoes, which mean that they are tall and cone-shaped, made up of many layers of hardened lava and volcanic ash.