Santiago (AFP) - Authorities Friday lifted a red alert for the area surrounding a southern Chile volcano, whose brief but fiery eruption forced the evacuation of thousands of people amid a shower of fire and ash earlier in the week.
In its first major eruption in 15 years, the Villarrica volcano burst into action early Tuesday morning, prompting Chilean authorities to declare the alert.
But on Friday they announced they had reduced the alert level to orange, while maintaining a five-kilometer (three-mile) exclusion zone around the volcano.
Volcanic activity has "entered a downturn," the National Emergency Office said.
The volcano forced the evacuation of more than 3,000 people from nearby towns as bright yellow-orange lava spewed and a column of ash rose as high as three kilometers. But the eruption was brief, ending after a few hours.
Villarrica is considered one of the most active volcanoes in South America, and draws crowds of tourists each year, with hikers climbing its slopes in the summer months to peer inside its crater, which rises 2,800 meters (9,200 feet).
Its last major eruptions were in 1984 and 2000.