Saturday, January 12, 2008

Chilean volcano eruptions trap over 50 people

Chilean military vehicles were en route on Wednesday to rescue 53 people trapped in a wilderness park after one of the country's largest volcanoes erupted, spewing ash and molten lava.There were no reports of injuries or damage, but dozens of tourists were evacuated from the base of the volcano and a group of 53 people was stranded after a local river swelled with meltwater and cut off road access.

"What's most important right now is the rescue of these 53 people," said Carmen Fernandez, the director of Chile's National Emergency Office (Onemi).Their escape was cut off when roads were flooded by a local river that swelled with meltwater following the eruption of the snowy volcano.

The Llaima volcano in southern Chile erupted late on Tuesday, sending a column of smoke and ash into the air and spewing lava down the east side of the mountain.The Conguillio National Park, about 50 miles (82 km) from the city of Temuco, was closed off to visitors on Wednesday and authorities asked curious tourists not to get too close.

"At this moment I would recommend against tourism in the area," Fernandez said on national television.The volcano is one of the country's most active and is in the Araucania region in southern Chile.Before the eruption, people in the towns closest to the volcano said they heard loud noises underground.

The volcano began erupting at 18:20 p.m. (2130 GMT) on Tuesday and it was unclear how long it would continue.The 10,253-foot (3,125-meter) Llaima volcano has frequent moderate eruptions.

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