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Volcano Eruption Forces Chilean Town to Evacuate

December 26, 1988

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ A volcano in southern Chile erupted for the first time in a century Sunday, prompting authorities to evacuate about 2,000 people.

Flor Verdugo, a school teacher in Malalcahuello who owns the only telephone in the town, said the Lonquimay volcano began to erupt about 4:15 p.m. (2:15 p.m. EST) after the area was rocked by three strong earthquakes, according to state television in Santiago.

There were no reports of injuries from the eruption or the quakes. Temblors can often precede volcanic activity.

The government’s National Emergency Office said the evacuation of virtually the entire population of Malalcahuello was only a precaution and that the town, about 415 miles south of Santiago, was not considered in danger.

The government said three craters opened on the 8,400-foot volcano, two of them emitting only heavy smoke. However, the largest crater, with a radius of about 100 feet, spewed a thick carpet of lava.

Ms. Verdugo said a number of quakes have been felt in the area for several days. The seismic activity, which has affected an area of about 30 square miles, became more intense Sunday morning, she said. There were no immediate Richter scale readings.

Pedro Riffo, a specialist of La Frontera University in Temuco, the largest city in the area, told local reporters the eruption did not threaten any populated area. He said Malalcahuello, the closest town, is surrounded by a chain of mountains that would serve as a natural defense.

Riffo said three other volcanoes exist in the area, but only one of them, the Llaima, has shown some activity in recent years.

The last registered eruption of the Lonquimay volcano occurred in 1889, Riffo said.

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