Latin America & Caribbean

Volcano ash covers Costa Rica towns

Smoke rises from the Turrialba volcano. Photo: 20 May 2016 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The eruption is believed to be the strongest in the past six years

A volcano has erupted in central Costa Rica, belching smoke and ash up to 3,000m (9,840ft) into the air.

Hundreds of people have gone to hospital, complaining of breathing difficulties and skin problems.

Some schools were shut and some flights into the country cancelled or diverted.

People in the capital San Jose, about 45km (30 miles) west of the Turrialba volcano, said layers of ash had coated buildings and cars and there was a fierce smell of sulphur.

Costa Rica's National Emergencies Commission has advised people to wear masks and tight clothing to protect their lungs and skin.

"It seems to me to be the strongest (Turrialba) eruption in the past six years," volcanologist Gino Gonzalez told reporters.

Costa Rica is home to dozens of volcanoes, but most of them are dormant.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Residents in the nearby communities have been advised to wear masks and tight clothing to protect their lungs and skin
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Volcano ash has darkened the capital San Jose
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Many local residents have been sharing their pictures of the erupting volcano on social media

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