Tourists are fascinated by Costa Rica’s volcanoes. Visitors can see the lake in the Poás crater from an overlook.
Hotels are built on the shirts of the Arenal volcano in La Fortuna where rumblings can be heard during the night.
Turrialba continues to issue vapor.
But what tourists and many younger Costa Ricans do not realize, these mountains can awaken with force.
Arenal, for example, destroyed the towns of Tabacón, Pueblo Nuevo and San Luís and killed 79 persons is an explosion July 29, 1968. The ash and volcanic bombs devastated an area of 232.6 square kilometers, according to reports at the time. That’s 57,477 acres. Thousands of cattle died, and crops were lost.
The mountain threw volcanic bombs 25 meters (82 feet) in diameter some 5.5 kilometers (3.4 miles). The whole area, including the town of La Fortuna, was evacuated.
The Volcán Irazú also has been in the headlines. The mountain near Cartago became active March 12, 1963, and threw so much ash into San José that a national disaster was declared.
Marking the 50th anniversary of the Irazú eruptions, the national emergency committee Monday said it has created contingency plans to go into effect when one of the nation’s volcanoes erupts. The popular volcanoes are in national parks and are visited frequently by tourists. The contingency plans establish evacuation routes and places to meet after an evacuation. There also are efforts to improve communications.
The agency, officially the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias, has established a first-level alert for three volcanoes: Poás, Turrialba and Rincón de la Vieja. All three are active.
The commission has been conducting training at these volcanoes, and in some cases access is restricted. There also is 24-hour surveillance, usually by park rangers.
Tourists usually do not have problems if they stick to established paths, but one group happened to be looking over the Poás lagoon Christmas Day 2009 when the volcano burped and sent a geyser of water several hundred feet high. They left rapidly.
The contingency plans involve the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación, the Ministerio del Ambiente y Energía and residents nearby. The plans are based on technical studies of risks.
The agency also is posting information at some of the locations to warn visitors.
Coincidentally Monday the Red Sismológica Nacional at the Universidad de Costa Rica released its two-month assessment of the active volcanoes. The report was detailed and does not contain any alarming information. That report isHERE!