Bummed out by winter? Try running from a volcano! Ash and lava spew from the Villarrica volcano, as seen from Pucon town in the south of Santiago (Reuters)
Bummed out by winter? Try running from a volcano!
Lexile

One of South America's most active volcanoes has erupted in southern Chile, spewing heavy smoke into the air as lava surged down its slopes, prompting authorities to evacuate thousands of people. Authorities worried that mudslides caused by melting snow could endanger nearby communities.

The Villarrica volcano erupted early Tuesday, according to the National Emergency Office, which issued a red alert and ordered evacuations. Media showed images of the volcano bursting at the top, and glowing in the dark amid heavy smoke and rivers of lava.

The 9,000 foot volcano in Chile's central valley, 400 miles south of Santiago, sits above the small city of Pucon, which has a population of about 22,000.

Chilean authorities had issued an orange alert on Monday because of increased activity at the volcano. About 3,500 people have been evacuated, including tourists, said Interior and Security Minister Rodrigo Penailillo.

Penailillo warned that the eruption had caused numerous rivers in the area to rise as snow along the sides of the volcano began melting. Villarrica is covered by a glacier cap covering some 15 square miles and snow from about 5,000 feet on up.

Authorities were keeping an eye on four nearby communities that could be endangered by mudslides as the snow melts.

Tourists flock to the area around Villarrica for outdoor activities like kayaking, horseback riding, fishing and hiking around the volcano, which last had a major eruption in 1984. Dozens of tourists were among those evacuated.

President Michelle Bachelet announced that she will travel to the volcano-hit area to check on safety preparations and asked residents to remain calm.

The Villarrica has a crater of about 200 yards in diameter and a lake of lava about 150 yards deep. It has eruptions every 10 or 15 years.

Chile has more than 2,000 volcanoes in the Andes cordillera and about 90 of them remain active. Villarrica is considered among the country's most dangerous.

Critical thinking challenge: What makes the area around Villarrica good for hiking?

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COMMENTS (34)
  • JakobB-Ver
    3/06/2015 - 02:21 p.m.

    I am very unhappy of the bad weather. Though after I read this, this made me more interested in volcanoes as well as how a volcanoes's magma moves.

  • AlejoN-Ver
    3/06/2015 - 02:31 p.m.

    I really hope that the people who were told to evacuate actually followed directions and left because in reality there is no away around from molten lava. Also if the mudslides caused by the melting of snow actually affect the community around it, it wouldn't be pretty to deal with and are very dangerous. In conclusion, I find it really amazing that out of the 2000 volcanoes in Chile only 90 of them are active. But also, one of the active volcanoes is Chile's most dangerous and largest volcano which is Villarica.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    3/06/2015 - 02:40 p.m.

    Even though this may be a good hiking place and it may be pretty to see, I think people need to put safety over fun. Maybe they can go hiking after the volcano erupts, but now doesn't really seem like the time.

  • NJesse-Cas
    3/07/2015 - 07:08 p.m.

    Hopefully everyone left the area and nobody gets hurt by the volcano. It's incredible that volcanoes can randomly become active and increase their danger. I'm glad they caught it while they could so that nobody dies.

  • 5ZacharyB
    3/08/2015 - 11:44 a.m.

    What makes the Area around Villarrica so good for hiking is probably the tall Volcanoes to climb. Also the Scenery I would think would have some effect on why so many people like to go there to hike.

  • dilan.76
    3/09/2015 - 10:56 a.m.

    About 869 people die in a year from volcanoes erupting. Tamu Massif is the biggest volcano in the world it covers 120,000 square miles about the same size as New Mexico. The size of Hawaii's biggest volcano is about 2,000 miles. There are about 1500 active volcanos in the world.

  • nicholas.jones07
    3/09/2015 - 12:53 p.m.

    I think that this volcano is very interesting. I think that this eruption is pretty cool. Some day I'd love to see an eruption for myself. Apparently this volcano has been active for some time now. I'm surprised they didn't evacuate earlier. The biggest volcano in the world was Vesuvius and it sprayed lava so far that it destroyed an entire city. One of the largest cities in ancient Italy, just gone. It's amazing when you think that it could have been much worse.

  • Garrett.smith90
    3/09/2015 - 01:08 p.m.

    This is crazy a volcano eruption I'm glade that the got everyone out though it would have been bad if it was like Pompeii or red snow and the creation of Frankenstein book but I'm still glade everyone is safe.

  • ShawnaWeiser-Ste
    3/09/2015 - 01:17 p.m.

    I feel as if the evacuation was a good decision because it would not have been safe if the volcano would have been erupting and the people would be enjoying outside activities.

  • pabloc-DiB
    3/09/2015 - 01:42 p.m.

    The 9,000 foot volcano in Chile's central valley, 400 miles south of Santiago, sits above the small city of Pucon, which has a population of about 22,000.

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