The Calbuco volcano in southern Chile erupted this week for the first time in four decades. Quiet since 1972, it's blown twice since Wednesday, generating striking images and concerns over the effects of both the lava and a mammoth cloud of ash.
That column of ejected ash measures nearly 7 miles, says Chile's National Mining and Geology Service, citing a "flyby" that was made early Thursday. In its latest update, the agency says volcanic activity is finally diminishing but that a state of emergency remains for a 12-mile area.
Saying 5,000 people have left the area around the volcano, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports, "Local officials say people are very, very frightened. The immediate concern is the volcano's eruption could trigger snow melts and cause flooding."
Calbuco's eruption triggered a red alert, and the area around the 6,500-foot volcano was evacuated. Despite the tower of billowing ash and lava seen in photos Wednesday, officials say the volcano expended the most energy overnight, at 3:30 a.m. local time.
We haven't heard of any injuries related to the eruptions — but the huge cloud of ash is already affecting people in surrounding areas, including part of Argentina, according to a map released by the Chilean geological agency.
NPR's Eyder Peralta wrote about the unexpected and powerful eruption Wednesday; now we're seeing more images from a second eruption, including a time-lapse video that shows lava and ash towering out of the volcano — and even some lightning bolts, lending an "end of days" feel to the proceedings.
The sudden and powerful volcanic activity seems to have caught Chile's geologists by surprise. But the agency also says the volcano was known to be active roughly every 34 years.
From the AP:
" 'For us it was a surprise,' said Alejandro Verges, regional emergency director of the Los Lagos region where the eruption took place. He said Calbuco wasn't under any special form of observation."
Calbuco is the second volcano in the region to erupt in two months; the Villarrica volcano emitted a brief but fiery outburst in early March. Chile has around 90 active volcanoes; Calbuco is seen as one of the most potentially dangerous.