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Turrialba volcano has erupted in central Costa Rica, spewing smoke and ash up to 9,840ft into the air.

Hundreds of people have been hospitalized, complaining of breathing difficulties and skin problems.Turrialba volcano eruption 2016

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

People in the capital San Jose, about 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.

Volcanologist Gino Gonzalez told reporters: “It seems to me to be the strongest [Turrialba] eruption in the past six years.”

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

Costa Rica is voting to choose a successor to President Laura Chinchilla.

The governing party’s Johnny Araya, a former mayor of San Jose, is expected to face strong opposition from left-wing candidate Jose Maria Villalta.

Centre-left politician Luis Guillermo Solis is also seen as a contender.

With many voters undecided, pollsters are predicting a tight race. If no candidate wins outright, there will be a run-off on 6 April.

Johnny Araya, who served as the capital’s mayor for more than 20 years, has promised to reduce poverty and attempted to distance himself from the scandal-hit government of President Laura Chinchilla.

Costa Rica is voting to choose a successor to President Laura Chinchilla

Costa Rica is voting to choose a successor to President Laura Chinchilla

Analysts said that Jose Maria Villalta could become the first left-wing president in Costa Rican history. He was the only one of the main candidates not to attend a Sunday Mass.

“I don’t usually go to church. It would be hypocritical of me to go now, just because we are holding elections,” Jose Maria Villalta told reporters.

His opponents accuse him of being a “communist” and planning to legalize abortion.

Another leading contender, right-wing candidate Otto Guevara, promised to rebuild the “social fabric” and lower electricity prices.

Laura Chinchilla became the first female president of Costa Rica in 2010.

Correspondents say Laura Chinchilla’s successor will have to tackle not only the country’s economic woes but a deeply divided Congress.

Voters are electing both a new president and members of Congress.

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