Eruptions of the Copahue volcano, which began Saturday morning on the border between Chile's Biobio region and the Argentine province of Neuquen, have eased off considerably, officials said.

"Volcanic activity declined during the night," Mining Minister Hernan de Solminihac told reporters in the city of Temuco, referring to the latest report from the Southern Andes Volcanological Observatory.

"Activity has been declining. The ash column that yesterday rose to around 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) high dropped to 200 meters (655 feet) during the night, a sign that the volcano's internal pressure has slackened," De Solminihac, who has been in the area since the emergency began, said.

The national emergency management office on Sunday decreed a red alert for the municipality of Alto Biobio, the closest to the volcano and located some 570 kilometers (350 miles) south-southeast of Santiago, while a plan was set in motion to evacuate four communities if eruptions should increase at Copahue, a volcano 2,997 meters (9,826 feet) high.

In Temuco where the Volcanological Observatory is based, De Solminihac said that measures are in readiness to evacuate residents and farm animals from the immediate surroundings of the volcano, which, however, "gives the impression that, with this amount of activity, that won't be necessary."

"We have to calm people down with the assurance that we're monitoring that particular volcano 24 hours a day, seven days a week," De Solminihac said.

Further terrestrial and aerial evaluations will be carried out Monday in the area to determine what measures to follow. Meanwhile winds to the southeast are blowing the column of ash into Argentine territory, the minister said. EFE