Chile, Argentina order evacuation around stirring southern volcano

SANTIAGO/BUENOS AIRES Mon May 27, 2013 4:41pm EDT

1 of 3. Smoke and ash rising from the Copahue volcano are seen from 'Alto Biobio' place some 770 km (479 miles) south west of Santiago in this December 22, 2012 file picture.

Credit: Reuters/Jose Luis Saavedra/Files

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SANTIAGO/BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Chilean and Argentine authorities on Monday declared a red alert and ordered the mandatory evacuation of a 25-km (15.5-mile) radius around the active Copahue volcano, which straddles the border between the two Andean nations.

The volcano - located some 500 km (310 miles) south of capital Santiago, between Chile's Bio Bio region and Argentina's Neuquen province - has seen increasing seismic activity in recent weeks but has not erupted, Chilean authorities said.

"This doesn't necessarily mean the volcano will start erupting. But according to the Sernageomin (National Geological and Mining Service), the volcano is now in a process that could culminate in an eruption, for that reason we've issued a red alert and the evacuation," Chilean Interior Minister Andres Chadwick told a nationally televised news conference.

Authorities estimated that some 2,240 people will be evacuated in Chile.

In Argentina's Neuquen province, authorities also declared a "red alert," and ordered the evacuation of some 900 people in tourist-haven Caviahue-Copahue. The Argentine municipality had previously ordered the cancellation of school classes.

Close to the Chilean side of the volcano, in Bio Bio region, power generator Endesa Chile operates the Ralco and Pangue hydroelectric dams, which have not been affected by the evacuation order.

Endesa Chile is monitoring the situation, a company source told Reuters. Water levels at the dams are at technical lows, which would avoid the possible need to open the floodgates, and the dams' walls are designed to withstand earthquakes, the source said.

In mid-2011, ash from a volcano in Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle chain that erupted after decades of lying dormant forced the sporadic cancellation of hundreds of flights, especially in neighboring Argentina and Uruguay.

(Reporting by Santiago and Buenos Aires newsrooms; Additional reporting Fabian Cambero and Felipe Iturrieta; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Comments (2)
chefykins wrote:
Why do I have the sinking feeling that if there is going to be an eruption either here or in Mexico or Alaska, to name just a few of the active volcanos around the World, this is going to set off a chain reaction around the ring of fire?

May 27, 2013 3:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
mikedailing1 wrote:
Nah, Never Happen

May 27, 2013 4:40pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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