Beijing : Chile’s long-dormant Chaiten volcano spewed clouds of gray smoke, hot rocks and toxic gas on Tuesday, forcing authorities to order the complete evacuation of two nearby towns, media reports said.
More than 4,000 people left the town of Chaiten, 10 kilometers (six miles) from the volcano, after the initial eruption. Several hundred are still waiting to leave. Futaleufu, 70 kilometers (44 miles) to the east, is also being evacuated.
The volcano’s column of smoke and ash stretched more than 19 kilometers (12 miles) into the sky on Monday, Chile’s National Geology and Mineral Service reported, and it extended well into neighboring Argentina and to the Atlantic Ocean.
Chilean officials said molten rock was being thrown from the volcano but that no lava flows had been detected.
The five-day-old eruption is the first in at least 9,000 years for the volcano in southern Chile, according to volcanologists at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
A government vulcanologist warned there could be a big eruption at any time.
“There could be a major explosion that could collapse the volcano’s cone,” said Luis Lara of the National Geologic and Mining Service.