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Chile's Calbuco volcano erupts with a roiling column of ash and smoke

The Calbuco volcano in Chile erupted Wednesday afternoon, spewing a massive plume of ash and smoke into the air and taking locals and officials by surprise.

Evacuations were ordered for the nearby town of Ensenada, which is about 600 miles south of Santiago, as well as smaller communities. Flights were canceled, and a state of emergency was declared in the province, according to the office of Chile's undersecretary of the Interior.

"Visibility is almost nil in the area near the volcano," the undersecretary's office said on Twitter.

The eruption is Calbuco's first since 1972, according to the Associated Press, which also said Calbuco is considered one of the three most potentially dangerous among Chile's 90 active volcanoes.

"For us it was a surprise," Alejandro Verges, emergency director of the surrounding Los Lagos region, told the AP. Calbuco wasn't under any special form of observation, he said.

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