A volcano in southern Chile has erupted, prompting officials to evacuate thousands of people in the surrounding area.

The Villarica volcano erupted Tuesday around 3 a.m. local time (0600 GMT), according to the National Emergency Office, which issued a red alert and ordered evacuations.

Several local news sites showed images of the volcano bursting at the top, with laving spewing out mixed with heavy smoke.

The 9,000 foot (2,847-meter) volcano is located in Chile's central valley about 400 miles (670 kilometers) south of Santiago. It's one of South American's most active volcanoes, and sits above the small city of Pucon, where tourists flock for outdoor activities, including hiking around the volcano.

Chilean authorities issued an alert on Monday because of increased volcanic activity, and began preparing for evacuations.