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Children watch the Calbuco volcano erupt. AP/Press Association Images

Chile volcano erupts for first time in decades

The volcano has not erupted in 43 years.

A VOLCANO IN Chile called Calbuco erupted today for the first time in nearly half a century, spewing a giant funnel of ash 10 kilometers into the sky and prompting authorities to declare a state of emergency.

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.

Emergency measures were also in place in neighboring Argentina, where the picturesque city of Bariloche — about 100 kilometers from the volcano – said it was anticipating the arrival of ash clouds within hours and warned people to stay at home.

Cloud of ash 

Puerto Montt, over the border from Bariloche and the largest Chilean city in the area, was already blanketed in a cloud of ash.

“People are very, very frightened,” said Gervoy Paredes, mayor of Puerto Montt.

Chile Volcano Erupts AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

“The situation is pretty complicated,” he added, saying reports indicated the Blanco river was flooding because of ice melt triggered by the eruption.

Airlines cancelled flights as the towering, mushroom-shaped ash cloud rose from Calbuco’s snowy peak.

Schools also suspended classes in the region.

Television images showed large traffic jams and long lines at gas stations in Puerto Montt, where a red alert was declared, along with nearby Puerto Varas.

“I would like to call on the population to remain calm and stay informed,” said Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo.

Chile Volcano Erupts AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

“The police have given orders and begun to evacuate.”

The initial evacuation involved about 270 families, but could be expanded, officials said.

Police called on residents to keep roads as clear as possible to aid the evacuation.

Calbuco had been inactive for 43 years.

It was a “rather explosive eruption,” said Gabriel Orozco, a volcanologist at the National Geology and Mines Service.

Chile has about 90 active volcanoes, of which Calbuco is considered one of the most dangerous.

Here is some live footage taken from a news station in Chile:

earthspace101 / YouTube

© AFP 2015

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