The Calbuco volcano, located in the Los Lagos Region of southern Chile, has erupted for the first time since 1972. The stratovolcano has erupted 10 times since 1837.
According to local media, authorities ordered emergency services to evacuate 4,000 people from a 12 mile radius ‘as a precaution’. InfoBae says 5,000 have been evacuated.
According to Terra Chile there was a second eruption today, at 1am local time (4am GMT) which sparked a ‘red alert’ announcement for the region.
The National Service for Geology and Mining (Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería) and OVDAS (Observatorio Vulcanológico de los Andes del Sur – Southern Andean Volcano Observatory) have recommended the evacuation 12-mile radius zone be continued.
The Calbuco volcano erupts. Several people live in nearby towns. (Image: EFE)
The ‘red alert’ status applies to Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas, because the volcano currently poses a “high threat for the population,” authorities said.
More than 4,000 people have been evacuated from Correntoso, Colonia Río Sur, Alerce and Ensenada in the Los Lagos region, the the Ministry of the Interior announced. The affected zone has a population of 60,000 people, so more evacuations are likely if volcanic activity persists.
State of Emergency Disaster declared
Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet has declared a ‘State of Emergency Disaster’ (Estado de Excepción por Catástrofe) in the Llanquihue province and the municipality of Puerto Octay.
Authorities have ordered an 11.45pm to 5am curfew for Puerto Octay, Puerto Varas and Montt, the aim being to prevent burglaries in the hundreds of homes and looting of businesses that are currently unoccupied due to the evacuation.
Schools have closed in the whole region until further notice.
One hour after the eruption, Interior Minister Rodrigo Peñailillo held an emergency meeting of the Comité Operativo de Emergencia (Emergency Operating Committee) in the capital, Santiago.
Mr. Peñailillo urged citizens to stay calm, keep informed, and to follow the instructions announced by the National Emergency Office, as well as those from the police and the military.
Mr. Peñailillo said in a public statement:
“We call on all people who live or currently are in the area near the Calbuco volcano to evacuate and take all precautionary measures to protect their safety.” (“Hacemos un llamado a todas las personas que vivan o en estos momentos se encuentren en la zona cercana al volcán Calbuco a que evacúen y tomen todas las medidas preventivas para resguardar su seguridad”)
Despite being inactive for over forty years, the volcano was classed by geologists in Chile as ‘peligroso’ (dangerous).
President Bachelet warned there is a real possibility of lava flow, which could cause ice melt, which in turn would raise river levels and cause flooding in the area.
She will fly to the affected area today, accompanied by her ministers of agriculture, economy, public works and health.
Video – First eruption of Cabulco volcano