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Chilean volcano spouts off

  |   Jan. 3, 2008 at 2:17 AM
MELIPUEUCO, Chile, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The Llaima volcano in Chile shot lava and smoke into the air Wednesday, prompting the evacuation of more than 150 tourists in the vicinity.

The tourists, along with about a dozen officials from Chile's National Forestry Corp., were flown by helicopter to Melipueuco about 31 miles away where they received food and water, the Santiago Times reported.

Lava was reported to be flying 900 feet into the air with a 12-mile plume of smoke pouring from the volcano, the newspaper said. Chile's National Emergency Office said the volcano, located about 403 miles south of Santiago, started to spew smoke and ash Tuesday evening.

"There are absolutely no damages to forests near the volcano. If there were any serious problems, we would have had to fight serious forest fires," the emergency office's regional director, Mario Acuna, told the Santiago Times.

"Our priority over the next few days will be keeping tourists and other people out of the Conguillio National Park (for safety precautions). We are also evaluating when it could possibly reopen."

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