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Chile volcano eruption sends 3,500 residents fleeing

AFP/Francesco Negrito

Southern Chile’s Villarrica volcano erupted early on Tuesday, sending heavy smoke into the air and lava coursing towards the small city of Pucon, prompting authorities to evacuate thousands of residents.

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Some 3,500 people have been evacuated so far, some of them tourists, Interior and Security Minister Rodrigo Penailillo told the AP.

The 9,000-foot (2,847-metre) volcano lies in Chile’s central valley above Pucon, which has a population of about 22,000 people. Authorities are worried that mudslides caused by melting snow could endanger nearby communities but no injuries have so far been reported.

The volcano erupted around 3am local time, according to the National Emergency Office. Local media showed footage of the volcano bursting at the top, glowing in the dark amid heavy smoke and rivers of lava.

The Villarrica, which ranks among the most dangerous of the country’s 90 active volcanos, has a crater of about 200 metres in diameter and a lake of lava about 150 metres deep. It erupts on average once every 10 or 15 years.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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