• Cielo Vista

As Turrialba Volcano erupts again, scientists warn of increased health risks, economic damage

October 14, 2015

Volcán Turrialba. 10 de mayo 2015. A las 04:55 de la mañana se inicia un proceso eruptivo con presencia de ceniza. La columna no alcanza a elevar, el viento puede transportar esta ceniza hacia el Valle Central. El video adjunto inicia a las 05:00 y finaliza a las 05:45.

OVSICORI-UNA 发布于 2015年5月10日

At 4:55 a.m. Sunday, ash spilled from the crater of Costa Rica’s Turrialba Volcano for nearly an hour. Though the ash barely left the crater, located about 67 kilometer northeast of the capital San José, the wind carried it into the Central Valley — for the umpteenth time in recent months.

The eruption comes less than a week after the volcano shot a tower of ash 2.5 kilometers into the air, shutting down Juan Santamaría International Airport for the third time since March.

Since Turrialba Volcano re-awoke last October, volcanic ash has dirtied homes, damaged crops and mucked up travel plans. With its frequent eruptions, the volcano has gone from an interesting diversion to a nuisance for nearby residents and visitors.

And experts say the worst is yet to come.

Future eruptions, they say, could jeopardize the health of humans and the environment. They could also cause serious economic damage.

“There is a very high possibility that [the volcano] will reach a higher level of activity,” said Lidier Esquivel, the chief investigator of risk management for the National Emergency Commission (CNE).

Scientists with both the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI) and the National Seismological Network (RSN) expect Turrialba’s eruptions to gradually increase over the next few months until the volcano is erupting on a near weekly basis. Scientists have also confirmed that lava has reached the surface.

“The volcano is already throwing lava, it is fragmented lava that is creating the ash,” Guillermo Alvarado, coordinator for volcanic and seismic threats and monitoring for the Costa Rican Electricity Institute, said during a volcano roundtable event last week.

Alvarado said these lava fragments actually create a natural form of glass, which when inhaled can pose serious health risks to both animals and humans. Children, the elderly and people with pre-existing respiratory problems are especially at risk when breathing in ash.

“At this point there have been very few serious health problems to arise, but ash can cause respiratory problems, throat problems and burning in the eyes or skin.” Esquivel said. “As more people are regularly exposed to volcanic ash, we expect to see these problems in a larger portion of the population.”

TIMELINE: A history of major volcanic eruptions in Costa Rica

The ash can also kill plants, contaminate water supplies and damage electronic equipment.

The ash has already done its fair share of damage. Within 5 kilometers of the volcano, ash and acid rain have killed off crops, damaged homes and contaminated rivers. Three schools in the area have been forced to close each time the volcano erupts. And there have been reports of some residents developing respiratory problems.

If conditions continue to worsen, the area may have to be evacuated. 

While the immediate vicinity of the volcano is the most vulnerable to ash damage, emergency officials are growing increasingly concerned about the rest of the country.

“With the right wind, depending on the weather, some of these volcanic episodes will bring ash over San José and the surrounding metropolitan area,” Esquivel said. “This will happen more often if the eruptions increase.”

San José’s greater metropolitan area houses more than half of Costa Rica’s population and virtually all of the country’s industry. According to Esquivel, the city’s high concentration of electronic equipment is at great risk for damage as the presence of ash becomes more frequent.

The National Emergency Commission is preparing for the worst case scenario, where Turrialba’s explosions become much stronger, similar to those of the Irazú volcano in the 1960s, which regularly showered San José with ash. 

“We can’t predict with 100 percent certainty what will happen on any given day,” Esquivel said. “All we can do is be prepared.”

Facebook Comments

You may be interested

Fishing for the next generation in Quepos
Sponsored content
3 views
Sponsored content
3 views

Fishing for the next generation in Quepos

Scott Cutter / Marina Pez Vela - May 20, 2019

Having completed the 20th edition of the Offshore World Championship in May, and the 7th edition of this iconic event…

Costa Rica announces provisional 40-man roster for Gold Cup
Keylor Navas
6 views
Keylor Navas
6 views

Costa Rica announces provisional 40-man roster for Gold Cup

Alejandro Zúñiga - May 20, 2019

Costa Rica on Monday announced the 40-man provisional roster that will serve as the basis for its 2019 Gold Cup…

Costa Rica allocates $3.35 million for port infrastructure in Limón
Costa Rica
16 views
Costa Rica
16 views

Costa Rica allocates $3.35 million for port infrastructure in Limón

Alejandro Zúñiga - May 20, 2019

The Atlantic Port Authority (JAPDEVA) will manage more than $3.35 million as it explores four projects to support the economy…

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!