Bajos del Toro is a town located near the slopes of Poas Volcano. Its residents have witnessed multiple eruptions in the last 100 years.
The first eruption was almost 70 years ago when the volcano emitted ash and fire that resembled black vultures flying around the crater and in the sky. But those black things sighted above the volcano were nothing but stones coming from the crater. The volcano eruptions continued from 1953 to 1955.
According to some residents, the biggest eruption occurred in 1955. Some say that they felt a big tremor that scared them to death. That day, they didn’t stay in the streets to watch the eruption in the distance; they ran for protection instead. The police had to intervene and evacuated a lot of families from their homes, even those who were unwilling to obey. The police took the people to a school that was being used as a shelter.
Although some people were unwilling to cooperate, they had to be evacuated after two days when the volcanic eruptions intensified.
Several shelters were made available; one of them was located in Zarcero. Many families lost their homes and had to stay in the refugees for over three months. The volcano has been active in the last three months; which has been reminiscent of terrible blasts some decades ago.
The consecutive eruptions in 1953 and 1955 changed the aspect of the volcanic massif because of the huge amount of volcanic material ejected. For example, there was a lagoon in the crater that disappeared following the eruptions in 1953, according to the volcanologist Raul Mora, in his thesis “Danger map of Poas Volcano”.
The ash fall destroyed the crops and left the animals without grass to feed on. People had to wash cane in the river so that they could feed the horses, cows, and beef. The Poas’ volcanic blasts during those years are still considered the biggest ones on record.
According to the volcanologists, Poas’ current volcanic activity is as intense as it was some decades ago. It continues destroying houses, shops and small businesses in Bajos del Toro. One of the most affected communities is located in the vicinity of Desague River. As the communities near that river are in danger, the National Emergency Commission blocked the access to the place and to all the volcano watersheds.
The constant explosions have turned many families’ lives around. For example, some of them have left cattle raising and farming aside to make a living through eco-tourism. This economic activity includes tours, local dishes promotion, and accommodation service. The residents provide tours to the river waterfalls in the zone.
How Poas Volcano has affected Bajos del Toro’s economy
Many small businesses have been shut down because of the ongoing volcanic activity in the crater. Sundays used to be good days, but profits have dramatically fallen since April. According to some business owners of the region, the media has made too much fuss about Poas Volcano, when nothing terrible has actually happened.
“People are scared because of the news. The media has affected us even more than the very volcano” – one of the residents says. He also stated that they have arranged some meetings with representatives of the National Emergency Commission to approach this issue”.
The authorities, however, has made it clear that tourism in the town is not restricted but the pathways to the river must be blocked because they are too close to the volcano slopes.
“Early warning system is not activated yet, that’s why it’s risky to let tourists go to some areas” – one of the representatives said.