A steady stream of smoke and ash leaking from the Villarrica volcano has residents of a nearby town wondering if – or when – disaster might strike.

Chilean officials raised threat levels to orange on Wednesday due to increasing signs of activity in the 2840-meter tall volcano, leaving area residents fearful of an eruption.

‘No one can sleep peacefully because the other day the eruption surprised us at 3 in the morning,’ said Francisco Valenzuela, a tour guide in the nearby resort town of Pucon.

‘The tourists are also a little uncertain,’ Valenzuela said. ‘Could something happen today? Could something happen tomorrow?’

The BBC reports that local authorities canceled classes for the more than 5,500 students in the area.

Many of the residents in towns and communities surrounding the volcano had to be evacuated earlier in the month, when lava and smoke erupted from the peak in the early hours of the morning.

‘It was spewing lava and ash hundreds of meters into the air,’ 29-year-old Australian tourist Travis Armstrong said. ‘Lightning was striking down at the volcano from the ash cloud that formed from the eruption.’

Adding to the threat of ash and lava, the peak is covered by a glacier cap and snow, causing some officials to worry the eruption could cause mudslides or force rivers to flood and jump their banks.

‘This is not a fireworks show,’ according to Rodrigo Alvarez, director of the National Service of Geology and Mining, who directed everyone – but especially tourists – not to stray near the volcano.

The peak, located about 500 miles south of Santiago, is a popular hiking destination for tourists. With the last large eruption occurring in 1984, tourists could until recently peer into the crater and wonder about the volcano’s destructive capacity.

Chile’s president, Michelle Bachelet, visited Pucon after the first eruption to check on safety preparations and declare a state of emergency for area farmers in order to provide aid.

‘You never know when an eruption will take place but what we do know is that the activity is lower, that’s visible,’ Bachelet said earlier in the month.

The residents who have returned home remain wary of the volcano, but many believe they can spot a warning sign in time to evacuate again safely.

‘We are here everyday following it in the morning and afternoon to see if there’s some change,’ said Pablo Mendez. ‘Something that would give us some minutes to evacuate.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3007215/Chile-issues-orange-alert-Villarrica-volcano-plumes-ash-terrorize-town-below.html#ixzz3VMzIghMe
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