Hundreds evacuated in southern Chile as volcano erupts

Authorities evacuated hundreds of people from villages in southern Chile Friday after a snowcapped volcano considered dormant for thousands of years erupted. The blast sent minor earthquakes rippling through the region. The 1,200-meter Chaiten volcano belched fire and ash Thursday night, causing more than 60 small tremors in the Los Lagos region, 1,200 kilometers south of the capital, Santiago, the government's Emergency Bureau said. Mild seismic activity could continue for the next several days, said bureau director Carmen Fernandez. Chile's government declared a state of emergency, evacuating as many as 1,500 people from nearby villages and the town of Chaiten, just over 10 kilometers from the volcano, the bureau said. Winds also carried ash over the Andes mountains to neighboring Argentina, where the Education Ministry suspended classes in several towns, including Esquel and Trevelin - two popular Patagonian tourist destinations. The Chaiten volcano has "probably been dormant for about 9,000 or 10,000 years but that's not unusual," said Charles Stern, a professor of volcanology at the University of Colorado, who specializes in Andes volcanoes.