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Red alert after Copahue spews ash, gas

Chile and Argentina are on alert after a volcano located on their common border began spewing ash and gas over the weekend. An evacuation has not been ordered as the region is sparsely populated.

Chile's national emergency office, ONEMI, raised the state of alert in the Biobio region of the country on Sunday to red, according to the AP news agency.

However it did not issue an evacuation order as there are no towns in the area at risk if a full-blown eruption takes place. For the few hundred people in the danger zone, officials were distributing bottled water and facemasks.

The country's Geology and Mining Service stopped short of predicting a major eruption in the immediate future.

"The intensity of seismic signals suggests the eruption in progress is on the smaller side (but) we are not ruling out the possibility that the activity could turn into a larger-scale eruption," it said in a statement released late on Sunday.

The region around the 3,000-meter (9,843 feet) Copahue volcano is known for its spa waters and is a popular destination for tourists.

The eruption of Chile's Puyehue volcano in June 2011 caused major disruption to air travel and forced the evacuation of thousands of people.

pfd/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa)