The volcano's giant ash cloud stretched far into the sky over an area of Chile's south that's lightly populated, but the incredible images are making their way around the world. The Calbuco volcano erupted yesterday for the first time in almost 43 years, spurring the evacuation of 1,500 people who live in the nearby town of Ensenada; the capital of Santiago sits 620 miles away. Al Jazeera reports a second eruption followed the first, and observes that the ash cloud turned a stunning shade of red at sunset; Reuters adds that lightning bolts intermittently flashed through it.
Of Chile's 90 active volcanoes, the 6,500-foot Calbuco makes the top three in terms of danger, but this unexpected eruption seems not to have brought calamity: No hot rocks or lava had been seen by late yesterday, and no injuries or missing persons were reported. Still, the government is reacting: Water is being taken to the area in case resources get contaminated by ash, and police and military officers had been deployed to ensure safety and help with evacuations. "For us it was a surprise," says Alejandro Verges, regional emergency director of the Los Lagos region where the eruption took place. He notes Calbuco, which last erupted in August 1972, wasn't under any special form of observation.