The Calbuco volcano, one of the three most dangerous of the 90 in Chile, has erupted for the first time in 42 years.
Emergency services declared a red alert, evacuating a 20-kilometre radius around the mountain that is 1,000 kilometres south of Santiago, near the tourist towns of Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt.
Calbuco last erupted in 1972. Gabriel Orozco, a vulcanologist with Chile’s geological and mining service, explained the dangers.
“In this situation, with the eruption column so high, the main risk is that it collapses, falls due to gravity because of its own weight and causes a pyroclastic flow,” The Guardian reported him as saying.
A pyroclastic flow is a superheated current of gas and rock that can destroy nearly everything in its path and travel at speeds upwards of up to to 300 kph.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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