Costa Rica's Turrialba volcano erupted at 07:19 UTC on May 12, 2016 (01:19 local time), sending a column of smoke and ash up to 3 km (17 000 feet) above the summit (~6.3 km / 20 800 feet a.s.l.). The eruption lasted between 8 and 11 minutes.
Emergency services ordered the closure of access roads near the volcano and started evacuating a radius of 1.6 km (1 mile) around the volcano.
Ash covered the Central Valley, closing Tobías Bolaños Airport, west San José, Costa Rica's capital. Juan Santamaría International Airport remained open with normal operations.
"It was a single powerful explosion, but really strong one. This means that there was high pressure inside the volcano," said Javier Pacheco, a volcanologist with the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI). "The eruption was very strong and reached some 3 km above the volcano’s summit."
Falling ash was reported in areas of San Jose, Coronado, Ipis, San Pedro Montes de Oca, San Isidro Heredia, San Pablo Heredia, TibAs, Pavas, La Uruca, La Sabana, Santa Ana and Alajuela. Many people said a strong sulfur smell was present in the region, QCostarica reported.
The volcano is now showing a relative calm with low seismicity and low outgassing. However, new eruptions are possible, OVSICORI said.
Turrialba, the easternmost of Costa Rica's Holocene volcanoes, is a large vegetated basaltic-to-dacitic stratovolcano located across a broad saddle NE of Irazú volcano overlooking the city of Cartago. The massive 3340-m-high Turrialba is exceeded in height only by Irazú, covers an area of 500 sq km, and is one of Costa Rica's most voluminous volcanoes.
Three well-defined craters occur at the upper SW end of a broad 800 x 2200 m summit depression that is breached to the NE. Most activity originated from the summit vent complex, but two pyroclastic cones are located on the SW flank. Five major explosive eruptions have occurred during the past 3500 years. A series of explosive eruptions during the 19th century were sometimes accompanied by pyroclastic flows. Fumarolic activity continues at the central and SW summit craters. (GVP)
Featured image credit: OVSICORI