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Volcano ash covers Costa Rica towns

Do Not UseDo Not Use 21/05/2016
Smoke rises from the Turrialba volcano. Photo: 20 May 2016 © AFP Smoke rises from the Turrialba volcano. Photo: 20 May 2016

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

People wear masks as they look at the Turrialba volcano in Cartago, Costa Rica. Photo: 20 May 2016: Residents in the nearby communities have been advised to wear masks and tight clothing to protect their lungs and skin © AFP Residents in the nearby communities have been advised to wear masks and tight clothing to protect their lungs and skin

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

Volcano ash darkens San Jose. Photo: 20 May 2016: Volcano ash has darkened the capital San Jose © Reuters Volcano ash has darkened the capital San Jose

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.

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