Amazing Photos Of Villarrica Volcano Eruption In Chile [Gallery]

The Villarrica, one of South America’s most active and dangerous volcanoes, erupted around 3 a.m on Tuesday, according to the National Emergency Office, which issued a red alert and ordered the evacuations of thousands. News and pictures of the erupting volcano were quick to make the rounds in local media.

The Villarrica volcano is also known as Rucapillán, a Mapuche word meaning “house of the spirit,” has a circumference roughly 200 yards in diameter and a lake of lava about 500 feet deep. The 9,000 foot tall Villarrica volcano sits above the small city of Pucon in Chile’s central valley, and is populated by 22,000 residents.

Typically, the volcano erupts every 10 or 15 years and is considered to be among the most deadly of all the 2,000 volcanoes in Chile. Australian tourist Travis Armstrong gave a telephone interview from the small town and related his experience to reporters at the Associated Press.

“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, I’ve never seen a volcano erupt and it was spewing lava and ash hundreds of meters into the air. Lightning was striking down at the volcano from the ash cloud that formed from the eruption.”

According to the Chilean Geology and Mining Service, the volcano was experiencing a “weak and intermittent Strombolian eruption.” Strombolian eruptions are characterized by basaltic lava intermittently exploding, or fountaining, from a single vent.

Villarrica is covered by a 15 square mile glacier cap and, according to Penailillo, the eruption caused numerous rivers in the surrounding regions to rise as heat from the volcano caused the accumulated snow on the volcano to melt. As mudslides continue, local authorities are keeping a watchful eye on the nearby communities, ready to assist in their rescue.

The Villarrica volcano is a popular tourist attraction, and adventurers flock to the site for its many natural wonders, and activities such as kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, and fishing. Dozens of these tourists were among those evacuated from the volcano site, which last saw a major eruption in 1984.

President Michelle Bachelet announced plans to visit the area and make safety inspections, check emergency preparations and ease the frazzled nerves of residents.