Chile’s Villarrica volcano erupted last night (Tuesday 3rd March) sending fountains of lava shooting into the sky. The eruption began at around 3am local time and is still ongoing.
Locals updated twitter with pictures of spectacular columns of lava and ash spewing out of the volcano crater. The Chilean agency responsible for civil protection (ONEMI, Oficina Nacional de Emergencia del Ministerio del Interior y Seguridad Pública) has declared a red alert indicating the volcano is still active and dangerous.
— mark (@MarkWroxham) March 3, 2015
Villarrica is a popular tourist destination and is one of the most active volcanoes in southern Chile. It has been producing gas almost constantly for 30 years since its last eruption in 1984. This recent eruption was preceded by signs of increased unrest around mid-February, which included increased seismicity and explosions around the crater. During an overflight on 16 February volcanologists observed a lava lake and recorded temperatures near 800 degrees Celsius.
The major hazard from this eruption to the local town of Villarrica is from lahars. These are extremely hazardous mudslides and form by the melting of snow and ice from the summit glacier by the intruding or erupting magma.