Emergency officials put blanket alert on three volcanoes

The national emergency commission declared a low-level alert Tuesday for three of the country’s restless volcanoes.

They are Rincón de la Vieja, Poás and Turrialba. All three have shown increased activity lately, but the agency characterized the alert as preventative. There have been local alerts for months, but the one announced Tuesday covers all three volcanoes.

The alert status gives the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias more flexibility in installing monitoring equipment and keeping neighbors of the volcanoes informed of the situation.

The agency said it was being assisted by the Red Sismológica Nacional of the Universidad de Costa Rica and the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico of Universidad Nacional. Scientists from both academic institutions have been keeping a close eye on the smoking mountains.

Poás has shown a decrease in the level of its crater lake, which is an indication that gases might be released. Rincón de la Vieja has generated seismic waves that suggests that magma is moving underneath its cone. Turriabla has created a new outlet for gas and continues to emit gas and steam.

The emergency commission has restricted access to the volcanoes. All are in national parks.

Neighbors of the mountains have been given instructions to keep a radio nearby in case of eruption and to have plastic and tape available to seal windows and other openings to keep ash from entering homes. There also is an evacuation plan at Turriabla, which has the nearest group of neighbors on its flank.

Turrialba already has caused extensive damage to the nearby vegetation and farmlands.

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