Hundreds of people fled remote villages in southern Chile on Friday after a snowcapped volcano erupted, sending minor earthquakes rippling through the region.

The Chaiten volcano belched fire and ash on Thursday night, causing more than 60 small tremors in Los Lagos, a region about 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) south of the capital of Santiago.

More tremors can be expected in the coming days, warned Emergency Bureau Director Carmen Fernandez.

The government evacuated as many as 1,500 people from nearby villages and the town of Chaiten, just 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) from the volcano, as ash rained down on homes and local water supplies. Officials distributed fresh water and more than 10,000 protective masks, Fernandez and Interior Minister Edmundo Perez said.

Winds also carried ash over the Andes to Argentina, where school was suspended in the popular Patagonian tourist towns of Esquel and Trevelin. Authorities there also declared a state of alert on major highways as falling ash reduced visibility, and hospitals reported patients complaining of eye irritation.