Chile volcano erupts, covering towns in ash

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The Calbuco volcano in southern Chile was spewing ash on Wednesday, prompting the evacuation of about 45,000 people. It last erupted in 1972.

SANTIAGO, Chile - An ash cloud from the Chilean volcano Calbuco on Thursday covered several towns in Chile and across the Andes in neighboring Argentina.

The Calbuco volcano in southern Chile erupted Wednesday after lying dormant for 43 years, prompting the evacuation of about 45,000 people.

The authorities said the volcano 560 miles south of Chilean capital Santiago erupted again in the early hours of Thursday, and noted that further eruptions were likely.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet was traveling to the area.

The Chilean town of Ensenada was covered in 20 inches of ash, and about 4,000 people needed to be evacuated, the Chilean National Emergency Office said Thursday.

Schools in the area around the volcano were closed.

Domestic flights to Puerto Montt airport in Chile were suspended and local airports were closed, authorities said.

The town lies 31 miles from the volcano and has a population of around 240,000.

The wind carried the ash east across the Andes, with San Martin as the worst-affected town.

"It is 10 a.m. and it's dark as if it were nighttime. You cannot see anything, it's like a very dense fog," one San Martin resident told dpa.

Cars, houses, and the ground were covered in several inches of very fine volcanic ash with a strong smell of sulfur, and the air made many people's eyes and throats itch.

San Martin Mayor Juan Carlos Fernandez asked local residents to stay indoors, classes were suspended.

Public-sector employees were not required to go to work.

The previous activity of the 6,600-foot Calbuco was a minor eruption in 1972, and before that an eruption in 1961.