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Last Updated: Saturday May 03 2008 09:59 GMT

Volcano blows its top in Chile

The city of Esquel, 1,900km southwest of Buenos Aires, covered with ashes after the eruption of the volcano in neighbouring Chile

A volcano has erupted in South America, forcing more than 1,000 people to leave their homes.

A huge cloud of ash was blasted high into the air and scattered for miles around as the Chaiten volcano blew its top in southern Chile on Friday.

The eruption sent small earthquakes rippling through the region, but there have been no reports of any injuries.

Loads of people were surprised by the eruption as experts say the volcano hasn't been active for 450 years.

Check out the full-size ash cloud

Sick and elderly people had to be moved from their homes in the nearby town of Chaiten because of the ash clouds.

Other residents are being given face masks to help them breathe more easily and told not to drink the water as local reservoirs are covered with the ash.

Most volcanic

But it's not just Chile that's been affected by the blast.

The eruption's also dumped a layer of ash in neighbouring Argentina, forcing schools and a local airport to close.

Chile is one of the most volcanic countries on Earth, with more than 100 active volcanoes.