Image: Llaima volcano
Jose Luis Saavedra  /  Reuters
The Llaima volcano spews smoke and lava, some 528 miles south of Santiago, Chile, on Wednesday. The volcano erupted earlier in the day, sending up a huge plume of smoke and coating the surrounding wilderness park with ash.
updated 1/2/2008 2:37:12 AM ET 2008-01-02T07:37:12

A volcano in southern Chile erupted on Tuesday, spewing lava and ash, and forcing the evacuation of about 150 people, officials said.

Authorities declared an "early alert" around the Llaima volcano, readying police and firefighters in case further evacuations were needed, Chile's Emergency Bureau said in a communique.

A column of smoke rose more than three kilometers (9,300 feet) into the sky and television images showed thick smoke and lava emerging from Llaima, one of the most active of the dozens of volcanos in Chile.

Emergency bureau director Carmen Fernandez said 150 tourists and National Forest Service employees were evacuated from the Conguillio National Park where the volcano is located, some 650 kilometers (400 miles) south of Santiago.

If necessary, residents would also be evacuated from Melipeuco, a town of at least 5,000 located 12 kilometers (8 miles) from the volcano, officials said.

Bureau officials and vulcanologists were flying over the volcano to monitor the situation.

The 3,120-meter (9,400 feet) volcano last erupted in May, but has not suffered a major blast since 1994.

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