Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Chile volcano fires ash 20 miles high

Thousands are ordered to evacuate

SANTIAGO, Chile -- The long-dormant Chaiten volcano blasted ash 20 miles into the Andean sky Tuesday, forcing thousands of people to evacuate and fouling a huge stretch of South America.

The thick column of ash blew eastward for hundreds of miles to the Atlantic Ocean, and schools and a regional airport had to close. Citizens of Chile and Argentina were advised to wear masks to avoid breathing the fallout.

The 5-day-old eruption of the volcano in southern Chile is the first in at least 9,000 years, according to volcanologists at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

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