Chile, Argentina issue volcano evacuation orders (UPDATES)


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 and Argentina issued red alerts for the Copahue volcano on Monday and have ordered the evacuation of about 3,000 people living in the region.

The nearly 10,000-foot volcano, which sits in the Andes cordillera on Chile's border with Argentina, has had increased activity that could lead to an eruption.

"This red alert has been issued after monitoring the activity of the volcano and seeing that it has increased seismic activity," Chile's Interior Minister Andrew Chadwick said in a news conference. "There is a risk that it can start erupting."

In neighboring Argentina, officials also raised the alert level to red Monday, ordering about 600 people from the town of Caviahue to the city of Loncopue to leave their homes.

"The volcano is not erupting yet, but as a preventive measure we've decided to evacuate the population," the Crisis Committee from Neuquen Province said, according to the Associated Press.

School classes in Argentina's Caviahue-Copahue, home to around 900 people, have been suspended.

The Ralco and Pangue hydroelectric dams are located close to the Chilean side of the volcano, but they have not been affected by the evacuation order, operator Endesa Chile said.

More from GlobalPost: Copahue volcano eruption causes Chile to go on red alert

Chile's evacuation could last up to 48 hours, but could also be delayed because of heavy rains in the area. Thousands of minor earth tremors have been registered in the region in recent days.

Last December, Chile issued another red alert after Copahue started spewing ash and gas, while smoke billowed nearly a mile into the sky. Nearby residents were temporarily evacuated and planes were warned to avoid the Andes area.

Hundreds of flights were also canceled last year because another volcano erupted in southern Chile.