Saturday, January 26, 2008

Over 50 were rescued from Chile's volcano eruption

Rescue workers evacuated 54 tourists and staff from a Chilean wilderness park on Wednesday 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 Llaima volcano after it erupted on Tuesday evening .

The 54 people rescued had been stranded overnight after a local river swelled with meltwater and cut off road access.

"Army personnel evacuated 43 people this morning who remained in the Conguillio National Park. Another 11 people, park personnel and their family members, were also evacuated," the National Emergency Office said in a statement.

The volcano was calmer by Wednesday afternoon but Chile's deputy interior minister Felipe Harboe said further eruptions were possible.

"At this moment I would recommend against tourism in the area," said Carmen Fernandez, the emergency agency's director.

The eruptions on Tuesday sent lava spewing down the 10,253-foot (3,125-meter) volcano's east side and shot a column of ash and smoke into the air that forced air traffic to be diverted in neighboring Argentina.

Chile's geological service said abnormal seismic activity had also been registered around another volcano, Puyehue, to the south of Llaima.

Military ground vehicles had to be used in the rescue around LLaima because heavy fog prevented the use of helicopters.

The surrounding Conguillio National Park, about 50 miles from the city of Temuco, was closed off to visitors on Wednesday and authorities told curious tourists not to get too close.

Llaima is one of Chile's most active volcanoes and is in the Araucania region in southern Chile, about 435 miles (700 km) south of the capital Santiago.

Before the eruption, people in the towns closest to the volcano said they heard loud underground noises.

Chile is home to the world's second largest and second most active chain of volcanoes, after Indonesia.

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