Lascar volcano in Chile stirs, sending plume skyward

View of the Lascar volcano during an eruptive pulse in Peine, Antofagasta region, Chile, taken on 10 December, 2022AFP

A volcano in the Andes in Chile's north rumbled to life early Saturday, triggering minor earth tremors and sending a plume of smoke and ash 6,000 meters (nearly 20,000 feet) into a clear sky.

Chile's National Geology and Mining Service reported that at 12:36 am (15:36 GMT) the Lascar volcano stirred.

The volcano sent "an eruptive column" comprising volcanic ash and hot gases 6,000 meters above its crater, the service said.

Authorities raised an alert level to "yellow," indicating elevated volcanic activity, and established a no-entry perimeter five kilometers (three miles) around the crater.

They also alerted aircraft to the drifting plume.

Authorities stayed in close contact with officials in Talabre, a town 30 kilometers from the volcano, in case evacuations were required. But no property damage was reported.

Lascar, with an elevation of 5,592 meters above sea level, is 70 kilometers from San Pedro de Atacama, a popular tourist center that draws visitors for trekking, amateur astronomy and visits to the Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth.

Lascar erupted in 1993 but also had lesser volcanic activity in 2006 and 2015.

Farther to the south, yellow alerts remain in effect for regions around the Nevados de Chillan volcanic complex and the Villarrica volcano.