Copahue volcano eruption causes Chile to go on red alert


View of the Copahue volcano spewing ashes from Neuquen province, Argentina, some 1500 km southwest of Buenos Aires on December 22, 2012.


Bruno Tornini

Chile raised the alert level for the Copahue volcano to red, the highest possible, as it began spewing ash and gas over the weekend.

According to BBC News, the 10,000-foot volcano is located in Argentina's southwestern Neuquen province, near the Chilean border. Many people have already left local Argentine villages after authorities told them to monitor the situation.

Chilean authorities raised the alert, which was first issued Saturday, to the highest level of red in Biobio region after Copahue increased seismic activity overnight.

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In a statement, Chile's Geological and Mining Service said that no mandatory evacuations have been ordered around the remote volcano, reported CNN. The seismic activity suggested a minor eruption, but the agency decided to raise the alert level because it could not rule out a major eruption. It also warned about potentially dangerous mudslides within a 15-kilometer (9.3-mile) radius of the crater.

CNN also reported more gas than normal has been detected coming from the volcano. The black, ash-filled substance has soared as high as 1.5 kilometers (almost 1 mile) above Copahue and extended 13 kilometers (8 miles) out toward the southeast.

BBC noted that planes flying over the southern Andes have also been warned to avoid the area.