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Chile, Argentina issue red alert over Copahue volcano


08:18, May 28, 2013

BUENOS AIRES, May 27 (Xinhua) -- Red alert was declared Monday in Chile's region of Biobio and Argentine province of Neuquen for the Copahue volcano straddling the border between the countries, due to increasing seismic activity in the volcano.

Chile's Emergency National Office on Monday declared "red alert " in the southern community of Alto Biobio, in the central Biobio region, before the possible reactivation of Copahue volcano. The red alert includes a possible preventive evacuation of more than 2, 000 residents.

The volcano, which has been monitored since last Friday, caused a seismic chain of some 455 low magnitude earthquakes each hour between last Sunday and Monday, which forced to order the red alert.

Chile's Interior and Security Minister Andres Chadwick said the volcano's activity is monitored and the frequency of its seismic activity has increased, adding the increased activity could lead to an eruption and officials will soon begin evacuating 2,240 people, or 460 families, in a 25 kilometer radius within 48 hours.

"A process that can end in a volcanic eruption has begun, so red alert is indispensable, and the alert includes the evacuation of the population," Chadwick said.

Chadwick stressed that evacuation will be obligatory before the risk of a possible eruption.

"Chile's National Police (Carabineros) and the Investigation Police will guard the region. We are collaborating with the Army to protect people's belongings and homes, but it is necessary they evacuate the zone before the risk of a possible eruption," he noted.

Meanwhile, a red alert was ordered in Argentina's Neuquen province, forcing the evacuation of some 200 people from Caviahue locality, some 8 kilometers from the volcano's crater and about 380 kilometers northwest of Neuquen city, the capital.

Earlier, Neuquen's Civil Defense authorities said "the volcano is now more active and in the last hours, a large amount of earthquakes occurred," so classes were suspended in all the schools in the area.

Chile and Argentina issued days ago yellow alert in their respective region near Copahue volcano. The alert changed to orange last weekend due to increasing seismic activity.

The Copahue started spewing ash and gas in December, prompting a red alert then.

The volcano had a major eruption in 1992, and became highly active with blasts and gases in 2002, in its strongest activity in more than 20 years.

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