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Volcano spurs Chile town's evacuation

  • Story Highlights
  • Some 200 people still in Chilean town ordered evacuated due to volcano
  • Boats, helicopters to be used in evacuation efforts
  • Landscape described as "quite literally, a giant ashtray"
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(CNN) -- Chile's Chaiten volcano spewed clouds of gray smoke, hot rocks and toxic gas on Tuesday, forcing authorities to issue an evacuation order for the more than 200 people who remained in the town of Chaiten, emergency officials said.


A plume of ashes spews from the Chaiten volcano as seen from the city of Chaiten.

The country's emergency office said the evacuation order was issued after the volcano erupted around 8:45 a.m., emitting pyroclastic flows -- or mixtures of hot, dry rock fragments and hot gases.

Hours later, large plumes of gray smoke still rose into the sky.

Five boats will transport the remaining emergency officials, reporters, residents and others from the town, government spokesman Francisco Vidal told CNN en Espanol. Three helicopters were assisting, the country's emergency office said.

"We hope that this takes place in the most optimal way," President Michelle Bachelet said, according to her Web site.

Video showed the evacuees wearing face masks and carrying luggage as they walked toward the shore. Most parents held their children by the hand.

The evacuees will be transported to Castro, across the Moraleda Canal, or to Puerto Montt, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) north of Chaiten. The majority of the some 4,000 Chaiten evacuees are staying in those two cities, the country's emergency office said on its Web site. Some residents from nearby Futaleufu were also evacuated.

A small contingent of police and military remain in Chaiten, officials said.

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The volcano, which is about about 750 miles (about 1,210 kilometers) south of the Chilean capital, Santiago, began erupting early Friday, raining gray ash onto Chaiten. The small city is on the Corcovado Gulf, in southern Chile.

The volcano's column of smoke and ash stretched more than 12 miles (19 kilometers) into the sky on Monday, Chile's National Geology and Mineral Service reported, and it extended well into neighboring Argentina and to the Atlantic Ocean.

Local journalist Amaro Gomez-Pablos, speaking to CNN from Santiago, described the landscape as "quite literally, a giant ashtray."

Chaiten is "now a ghost town," he said. Video Watch huge cloud of ash boil out of volcano »

On Sunday, Bachelet took an aerial tour of the volcano, and visited Futaleufu, according to her Web site. She also spoke to evacuees in Puerto Montt, and told them their fate depended on what course the eruption took.


"As you can see, this situation is evolving hour by hour and day by day," she said.

The volcano last erupted around 7,420 B.C., according to the Smithsonian's Global Volcanism Project.

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