July 29, 1968 lives in the memory of many Costa Ricans as a tragic day in which more than 80 people lost their lives as a result of the eruption of Arenal Volcano, known back then only as Arenal Mountain, many didn’t know, and others didn’t want to believe it was a volcano.
The Arenal Volcano is considered the youngest volcano in the country and also one of the most dangerous.
That day, the eruption came from the western side of the volcano, out of the open crater it expelled pyroclastic material and lava.
In a documentary that was aired July 28, created by the non-governmental-organization Volcanes sin Fronteras along with Novum Films, titled “The Last Day of the Arenal Mountain” (El último día del Cerro Arenal), described the terror and disbelief of the inhabitants of the area. According to the testimony of those that witnessed the phenomenon, the seismic activity began on July 28. The eruption that disappeared the towns of Tabacon, Pueblo Nuevo and San Luis, happened July 29 at 7:30 a.m., another important eruption took place July 31st.
“After the eruption, the great cloud of ash covered the sky, those that could ran as fast as possible, balls of fire could fall from the sky burning everything they came in touch with, incandescent rocks where launched by the volcano, some reaching 10 kilometers of distance”, describes the documentary.
In total 15.2 square kilometers (1520 hectares) were devastated, 87 people lost their lives and approximately 30,000 head of cattle.
Since 2010 the volcano has been asleep, but it is still considered an active volcano with the potential to exploit again at any given moment.
This natural phenomenon marked a before and after for the area of La Fortuna, that had to rebuild and reinvent itself, becoming now a days one of the most popular tourist sites in the country.