Thousands flee for their lives as Chile volcano blows its top
The Calbuco volcano has erupted for the first time in nearly 43 years, billowing a huge ash cloud over a sparsely populated mountainous area in southern Chile.
Authorities ordered the evacuation of the 1,500 inhabitants of the town of Ensenada, along with residents of two smaller communities.
The National Mining and Geology Service issued a high alert, barring access to the area around the volcano, which lies near the cities of Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt, 1,000km south of the capital, Santiago.
"For us it was a surprise," said regional emergency director Alejandro Verges, adding that Calbuco was not under any special observation.
Authorities said a large amount of ash was observed but no hot rocks or lava had been seen. No injuries were reported.
Schools were closed in communities near the volcano and at least three flights to Puerto Montt were cancelled.
The 2,000-metre Calbuco last erupted in 1972 and is considered one of the top three most potentially dangerous among Chile's 90 active volcanoes.
Villarica, one of South America's most active volcanoes, erupted in southern Chile last month.
Security Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said the government was sending water to Ensenada in case resources get contaminated by ash.