Thousands leave homes as Chile volcano erupts
SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Lava started to spew from an erupting volcano in southern Chile on Tuesday and authorities ordered the immediate evacuation of all remaining residents from a nearby town.
Chaiten volcano, in Patagonia around 760 miles south of the Chilean capital Santiago, began erupting on Friday, sending a towering plume of ash into the sky that has since coated the surrounding area and reached as far as Argentina.
The National Emergency Office said the volcano was spitting bits of lava and rock, and that around 300 remaining civilians and troops were being evacuated by boat across a fjord. However, emergency officials had not yet detected lava flow down the volcano's sides.
Authorities have already evacuated around 4,200 people -- nearly the whole population -- from Chaiten, which is six miles
from the volcano. Evacuation is complicated by the fact southern Chile is fragmented by fjords and access is often difficult.
Authorities are also evacuating a second town, Futaleufu, which has also been coated with ash. The area is some distance from Chile's vital mining industry farther north.
Some of Futaleufu's 1,000 or so residents had already crossed into neighboring Argentina, where some areas have also been showered with ash and where authorities last week closed schools and treated some for breathing problems.
The ash is more than 6 inches thick in some places, contaminating water supplies and coating houses, vehicles and trees and contaminating water supplies, and authorities are moving thousands of head of cattle from the area.
Chile has the world's second most active string of volcanoes behind Indonesia.