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Chile's Puyehue volcano spews lava


Lava has begun spilling from Chile's Puyehue volcano, 18 days after it first erupted, but there's no danger to nearby residents, according to the National Service of Geology and Mining.

But the ash cloud created by the eruption continues to wreak havoc on airlines around the world.

The Chilean airline LAN cancelled flights to Temuco and Valdivia in the south of the country, and a number of flights were suspended in Australia and New Zealand.

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"Viscous lava has flowed slowly westward in a channel roughly 50 metres wide and 100 metres long," the national geology service known as SERNAGEOMIN said in its latest report.

Last week, SERNAGEOMIN chief Enrique Valdivieso said the appearance of lava would signal "the end of the eruptive process" and would not put any of the local population in danger.

Authorities had subsequently authorised the return of more than 4,000 people to their homes.

But on Tuesday, SERNAGEOMIN acknowledged that "eruptions continue" and that volcanic activity could "increase again."

Puyehue had been dormant for a half century until June 4.

The ash cloud created by the eruption threatened to put an end to the tourist season at the Argentine skiing resort of Bariloche, some 1,600km southwest of Buenos Aires and just 100km southeast of Puyehue.

Air traffic in the southern hemisphere was hit especially hard, initially paralysing airports in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, and later those in Australia and New Zealand.

John Lee, chief executive of industrial group Tourism and Transport Forum said the ash had caused the largest disruption to Australia's aviation industry since a pilots' strike in 1989.

Ash poses a significant threat to aircraft because once sucked into engines, it can be transformed into molten glass by the high temperatures and potentially cause an engine to fail.

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