(RTTNews) - A chain of volcanoes erupted in southern Chile on Saturday forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents, media reports said.

Large columns of black smoke have been emerging from the Puyehue-Cordon-Caulle volcano range, about 800 kilometers south of the capital Santiago. Chile's National Service of Geology & Mining said the eruptions had also produced large quantities of gas hours after the authorities warned of strong seismic activity in the area. A strong smell of ash and sulphur was also reported from the area.

Local authorities who issued a red alert for the area said the evacuated people numbering about 3,500 would be relocated in temporary shelters in safe areas.

Ash clouds from the eruptions have drifted to neighboring Argentina where residents were ordered to stay indoors. A regional airport in the Argentine city of Bariloche has been closed as drifting volcanic ash disrupted air traffic.

Local officials in Bariloche asked the people to keep their water reserves at hand and use face masks in emergency. They warned that the ash cloud is expected to spread all over the Argentine provinces of Patagonia Río Negro and Chubut as prevailing winds blow the ashes east and south.

by RTT Staff Writer

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