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Costa Rica volcano erupts, national park evacuated

Costa Rica's Arenal volcano spews geeysers of lava, ash and toxic gases from its crater in the Arenal National Park, 80 km northeast of San Jose. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
San Jose (AFP) May 24, 2010
Costa Rica's Arenal volcano erupted Monday, spewing geysers of lava, ash and toxic gases from its crater and forcing the evacuation of the national park where it is located, authorities said.

The 1,633-meter-tall (5,450 foot) cone-shaped mountain in northern Costa Rica shuddered into activity at midday (1800 GMT), issuing eight successive rivers of lava that flowed down its steep slopes, National Volcanology and Seismology Observatory expert Elicer Duarte told AFP.

He said nobody was at risk from the eruptions but authorities as a precaution evacuated the Arenal National Park, 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of San Jose.

The Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica's major tourist attractions and the park has scores of hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and shopping centers.

No estimates were given of how many people were inside the park when the eruption began.

Arenal's last major eruption in July 1968 killed 89 people. Smaller eruptions have occurred at least six times over the past 35 years.

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