The eruptions this Sunday of the Volcan de Fuego in Guatemala which caused, according to the latest data, at least 62 deaths, several people injured and almost two million people affected, raised the question on whether an emergency of this type could happen with one of the active volcanoes in Costa Rica.
The National Seismology Network in Costar Rica posted in their Facebook account “Volcan de Fuego is one of the most active volcanoes in Central America. It has presented 7 big eruptions (similar in size to the one presented by Arenal in Costa Rica in 1968) in the past five centuries (…) As of 1932, the volcano has remained regularly active with important episodes in 1932, 1963, 1974, 1999, 2001 and 2003”.
In an interview with news media Costa Rica Noticias, Dr. Guillermo Alvarado, the volcanologist of the National Seismology Network (RSN), explained that Volcan de Fuego has remained an active and dangerous volcano for centuries,
“The problem is that because it is constantly active people start feeling comfortable around it, it becomes a tourism site, and hotels and different commercial activity builds close to the volcano”,
commented Alvarado. Who also explained that in the case of Volcan de Fuego, many people were living close to the volcano and were affected by the pyroclastic flows (fast-moving current of hot gas and volcanic matter that moves away from a volcano reaching high speeds) and lahars (a type of mudflow).
“In 2007 we published the Volcanic Danger Index for the Central American region and Volcan de Fuego was among the most dangerous volcanoes, along with Arenal in Costa Rica and Cosiguina in Nicaragua”, said Alvarado.
When it comes to whether something like this could happen in Costa Rica, Alvarado mentioned that “Arenal Volcano had a similar activity to Volcan de Fuego, in the past, with pyroclastic flows in 1975-1993-1998-2000 are very similar to those of Volcan Fuego, also Rincon de la Vieja centuries ago presented similar activity, the difference is that Volcan Fuego stands very high at 3,763 meters, which makes it more dangerous”
Alvarado explained also that the fact that the volcanoes in Costa Rica are National Parks the areas closest to the volcanoes, which represent the radio exposed to most danger, is isolated to a certain extent, although it is important to take measures regarding controlled access to this National Parks.