Buffer zones around Turriable volcano proposed for safety

Costa Rica’s emergency response commission officials urged residents near Turrialba Volcano to stay vigilant for the possibility of an eruption when they presented the results of a new study Friday.

Engineers presented a map of how the areas adjacent to the volcano would be affected by an eruption. The presentation was at a conference in the town of Turrialba. Officials recommended that the land five miles around the volcano be kept mostly uninhabited.

They also renewed the commission’s recommendation that tourists be restricted from visiting the volcano.

In the event of a natural disaster like a volcano eruption or a major earthquake, the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias is responsible for managing the government’s response to resulting emergencies. Part of that is developing a plan before the disasters occur.

Since Turrialba volcano began mild rumblings and gas releases in 2007, the commission has been wary of a possible eruption there. Experts went on higher alert in January and May of this year.

Red zone shows area around volcano where human activities should be abandoned, according to the emergency commission. Yellow zone should be just forest, said a study.

The major Sept. 5 earthquake off the Pacific coast only heightened these concerns for volcanoes throughout the country.

The Universidad Nacional’s Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico says on its Web site that Turrialba poses one of the greatest natural disaster risks to Costa Rica. The volcano’s height, proximity to major population centers and explosive potential coupled with prevailing winds that would send the ash cloud into the Central Valley contribute to this assessment.

A press release about the study says that the commission has been working with communities around Turrialba on emergency escape and communication plans.

Commission engineers presented recommendations about land use five kilometers or more away from the mountain.

These were based on data collected by the observatory at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

Engineers said that land within two kilometers of the crater is in a high-risk area. Farms and cattle grazing land within that area should be abandoned. The area approximately two to five kilometers from the crater should be simply left as forests, and not be promoted as a tourist destination, they said.

The engineers also urged the municipality to improve access and escape routes from the area. Now there is one road and a branch that goes to the crater from Ruta 230. The engineers also pointed out strategic locations to build shelters.

The volcano is under constant observation by the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional and the observatory, which broadcasts a 24-hour online feed that shows the crater. That is HERE!

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