Chile's active LLaima volcano spews lava

1/07/2008 - 15:48

By Anontio de la Jara

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile's Llaima volcano, one of South America's most active, is spewing lava in southern Chile, the state emergency office said on Tuesday, just two months after the spectacular eruption of the Chaiten volcano further south.

Snow-capped Llaima, near Chile's picturesque lake region, erupted violently on New Year's Day, forcing the temporary evacuation of some tourists and residents from the surrounding Conguillio National Park, and then belched ash and lava in February.

"There is renewed activity as lava is flowing towards the Calbuco River," said Juan Cayupi, a volcanologist at the state National Emergency Office. "(The lava) has reached around 800 meters to a 1,000 meters from the crater."

He said four elderly people had been evacuated from an area near the 10,253-foot (3,125 meter) high volcano which sits about 435 miles south of the capital Santiago, while some people working in the area had been sent home.

But he said there was no full-scale evacuation plan as yet.

Cayupi said he flew over the volcano on Thursday and saw gases emanating from a small dome in the interior of the crater, but saw no lava at the time.

Residents in the area were being advised not to cross rivers or head up canyons.

"The risk in this case is that there could be abrupt melting of snow because of the lava, which could produce torrents (of water and other material)," he added.

The renewed activity comes after Chaiten volcano, 760 miles

south of Santiago in Chilean Patagonia, started erupting on May 2 for the first time in thousands of years, spewing ash, gas and molten rock.

The nearby town of Chaiten has been caked in volcanic ash and the volcano continues to emit hot gas and ash. A 30 mile

radius around the volcano was evacuated, and the area remains off limits to thousands of evacuees.

Ash from Chaiten's immense tower of ash and hot gas, which initially soared as high as 20 miles into the stratosphere, as well as rains swelled rivers in the area. Flooding damaged dozens of houses, carrying some wooden homes off their foundations.

Ash was also blown across a swathe of Argentina as far as the Atlantic coast and prompted some flight cancellations.

Chile's chain of some 2,000 volcanoes is the world's second-largest after Indonesia's. Around 50-60 are recorded to have erupted, while a total of 500 are deemed potentially active.

(Writing by Simon Gardner, editing by Vicki Allen)

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