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Copahue Volcano Activity Puts Chilean And Argentinean Officials On Edge

This photo released by the Government of Neuquen, Monday, May 27, 2013, shows a plume of ash and smoke rise from the Copahue volcano, as seen from Caviahue, in the Argentine province of Neuquen, Friday, May 24, 2013. Chile has issued a red alert for the Copahue volcano on the border with Argentina that has become increasingly active. The nearly 10,000-foot (2,965-meter) volcano sits in the Andes cordillera, straddling the border with Argentina's Neuquen province. (AP Photo/Government of Neuquen, Tony Huglich)

This photo released by the Government of Neuquen, Monday, May 27, 2013, shows a plume of ash and smoke rise from the Copahue volcano, as seen from Caviahue, in the Argentine province of Neuquen, Friday, May 24, 2013. Chile has issued a red alert for the Copahue volcano on the border with Argentina that has become increasingly active. The nearly 10,000-foot (2,965-meter) volcano sits in the Andes cordillera, straddling the border with Argentina's Neuquen province. (AP Photo/Government of Neuquen, Tony Huglich)  (AP2013)

The increasingly active Copahue volcano bordering Chile and Argentina has put officials in both countries on alert, prompting both countries to order the evacuation of about 3,000 people.

Chilean Interior and Security Minister Andres Chadwick said the increased activity could lead to an eruption and officials would soon begin evacuating nearly 500 families within a 15-mile radius of the volcano..

"This evacuation is obligatory; it's not voluntary," Chadwick told reporters.

Chile's Emergency Office said the evacuation could last about 48 hours, but could be delayed because of heavy rains.

The nearly 10,000-foot mountain sits in the Andes mountains, overlapping Chile's Bio Bio region and Argentina's Neuquén province.

Argentine officials raised their alert level to red Monday afternoon due to higher seismic activity and ordered the evacuation of about 600 people from the town of Caviahue to the neighboring city of Loncopue.

"The volcano is not erupting yet, but as a preventive measure we've decided to evacuate the population," the Neuquén Crisis Committee said.

"There are no ashes in Caviahue. The vapor plume has descended, but in the last days, seismic activity has increased. That's the reason behind the change of alert in Argentina and Chile."

Copahue registered high seismic activity in December when its ash cloud billowed almost a mile high.

The volcano had a major eruption in 1992, according to the Chilean Mining Ministry's Sernageomin geology unit. It became highly active with blasts and gases in 2002, its strongest activity in more than 20 years.

Chile has more than 3,000 volcanoes and about 500 of them remain active.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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