SANTIAGO - The Puyehue volcano in southern Chile erupted on Saturday after half a century of sleep, forcing the evacuation of 3,500 people and generating a giant cloud of ash that reached neighboring Argentina.
The National Service of Geology and Mining (SERNAGEOMIN) of Chile has announced that the Puyehue erupted in the volcanic complex Caulle cord, caused "an explosion that produces a high gas column height of 10 km about ".
The government ordered in the afternoon the evacuation of some 3,500 people residing in over twenty towns near the volcano, located 870 km south of Santiago, near the Argentine border.
Initially, some 600 people were evacuated in the morning as a precautionary measure after an initial warning SERNAGEOMIN, warning of strong seismic activity in the region, prior to a possible eruption.
A dozen earthquakes of medium intensity, magnitude 4 were recorded in a few hours and a hundred small instensité.
The National Emergency Office (Onemi) announced that at 3:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m. GMT), "the alert level Volcanic Geology Department has been elevated to 6 (on a scale of 8) corresponding to a moderate eruption.
"We can see the mouth of the volcano, a column of smoke and (...) we perceive a strong smell of sulfur," said the prefect of the region of Los Rios Juan Andres Varas, quoted by media chilena, whose website the Mercurio.
In neighboring Argentina, in the city of Bariloche, Landmark mountain located 100 km east of Puyehue, the thick cloud of ash from the eruption forced to close the airport.
Bariloche is known in the afternoon "high ash fall, as if it was snow," said the chain of communication TN secretary of the city, Carlos Hidalgo. "The city is completely gray.
Bariloche authorities have advised residents to stay indoors and close doors and windows.
Chile-Argentina border to Cardenal Samore station was closed.
The Chilean Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter said that emergency measures to protect the population could be "short term". "We believe that adequate measures were taken, and we expect that things are going relatively well," he added.
In the area of the volcano by the way, people "feel that the risk is not close" because of wind direction to the east and delay the evacuation of their homes, told the press the Vice- Chilean Interior Minister Rodrigo Ubilla.
Puyehue volcano, 2,240 meters above sea level, belongs to the volcanic complex Caulle cord in the Cordillera of the Andes.
Its last major eruption dates back to 1960, after the terrible earthquake of magnitude 9.5 Valdivia, who had died 5700 in Chile.
The entry into operation of Puyehue is the latest in a series of dense volcanic alert in southern Chile in recent years.
In 2008, the eruption of Chaiten, 1,300 km from Santiago, had forced the evacuation of the city of the same name, whose streets were covered with a layer of ash several tens of centimeters. Already the rain of ash had reached Bariloche.
Also in 2008, and in 2009, the Llaima volcano, one of the most active in Chile and 700 km from Santiago, had forced the evacuation of dozens of residents of nearby towns and a few tourists.
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