I just wanted to post this about the earthquake that hit Costa Rica two days ago. This was very close to where we were staying and we hope everyone is doing OK. We heard from the person we rented from that his house and friends are fine. It is the very poor who suffer as their houses are usually much more susceptible to damage.
Death toll from quake put at 15
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(Posted at 3:25 p.m.)
An explosion ripped through a storage room at the national emergency commission building this afternoon, and the entire structure was reported in flames with large columns of black smoke rising from the site.
Meanwhile, the official death toll for Thursday’s earthquake has risen to 15.
President Óscar Arias Sánchez was on the scene when the explosion took place after having finished a tour of areas affected by the earthquake. But he was unhurt, and there were no injuries as a result of the blast and subsequent fire, according to the emergency commission chief.
The storage unit belongs to what is called the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias. This is the agency in charge of dealing with the results of the earthquake and whatever other national disasters would take place. It is located at the San Jose’s secondary
airport, Tobias Bolaños, in the western suburb of Pavas. The storage unit is a separate building.
The airport is used heavily by local flights, including those for tourists. The fire and smoke are expected to hamper air operations.
Daniel Gallardo, emergency commission chief, said the storage building fire was caused by a welder whose sparks ignited a foam mattress. The sprawling building is full of such mattresses that are used in emergency operations.
Gallardo also confirmed the number of dead from the quake without giving details.
He also said that with 50 helicopter flights into and out of the areas most affected by the earthquake, all who wanted to leave have been airlifted. He said that included the injured and many tourists who were trapped when landslides closed access roads. Many were in the vicinity of the La Paz Waterfalls Gardens which is in Vara Blanca, north of Heredia and Alajuela centros.
Quake reveals itself as a major national disaster
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas,
Saray Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff
What appeared at first to be another routine earthquake has fast become a national emergency.
The Cruz Roja said Thursday night that more than 300 persons have been injured and that eight persons have died. Individuals remain trapped in workplaces, vehicles, buses and hotels, and some will have to be airlifted to safety this morning.
More stories and photos . . . HERE!
Yesterday’s story . . . HERE!
Some 18 persons, mostly U.S. tourists, were taken by air Thursday afternoon from the Vara Blanca area near the quake epicenter. Some suffered fractures. Many more tourists are believed trapped at hotels because landslides have blocked access.
President Óscar Arias Sánchez will tour the most hard hit area today. Meanwhile, U.S. aircraft from a base in Honduras are expected today to help with the transportation of the injured and the trapped.
Janina Del Vecchio, the security minister, ordered 600 Fuerza Pública officers, including cadets, into special duty in affected parts of the country. The Unidad de Zapadores of the Fuerza Pública was ordered to San Pedro de Poás, at the presumed epicenter. These are the sapper officers who are skilled in excavation, mountain rescues and other difficult tasks.
Police were reinforced at Fraijanes, Vara Blanca, Toro Amarillo, San Carlos, Sarapiquí as well as Cartago, where several homes have collapsed.
The 1:21 p.m. quake has been assessed at 6.2 magnitude. Because the location is close to the Volcán Poás, some residents are worried about a major volcanic eruption even though geological experts say that there is no connection. The area where the quake struck, northeast of the city of Alajuela and northwest of Heredia centro, has suffered sharp quakes in the past.
Much of the damage came from homes tumbling down a slope after the ground gave way. Highways, too, were affected by a number of landslides. The San José-Guápiles Ruta 32 is closed and some motorists are having to spend the night in their vehicles because they are hemmed in by landslides. A Caribbean bus with 40 passengers also was trapped there. A security airplane crew reported it saw a bus halfway down a slope but was unable to provide help.
Daniel Gallardo, head of the national emergency commission, said that two girls, 4 and 7, died near Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui some distance from the epicenter. They were caught in a landslide.
It was in Carrizal de Alajuela, north and slightly west of the epicenter where a 14-year-old girl, identified as Anamaría Rodríguez Picado, died as her home tumbled down a slope and was reduced to a pile of lumber and tin.
Late Thursday night the Cruz Roja in Heredia reported that five persons, including four members of the same family, died when homes collapsed in El Roble de Santa Bárbara de Heredia.
The La Paz Waterfalls Gardens is in Vara Blanca, which is why so many tourists were affected by
the quake. Gallardo said that about 200 were
epicenter of quake
A.M. Costa Rica graphic
Epicenter is near the major population centers
trapped in the Hotel La Paz because slides had destroyed the roads. In Cariblanco, 10 persons
were trapped in a the cafeteria of a food factory because the access roads had collapsed, the Cruz Roja said, adding that perhaps as many as 1,000 persons were similarly cut off all over the country.
Some areas near the quake lost electrical, water and telephone service. Elsewhere the phone lines were saturated by worried callers all afternoon and evening.
Fear was a dominate factor as more than 250 felt aftershocks rolled through the country. In the immediate area of the quake, residents were planning on staying out of their homes overnight because of the aftershocks which were assessed as high as 4.0 magnitude. Victor González, director of the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica, said the aftershocks could continue for a week or more.
Fear was not confined to rural Heredia and Alajuela provinces near the epicenter. Office workers and store employees in San José and other Central Valley towns filled the streets after the quake hit. Most stayed outside, enjoying a sunny day. Stores closed and most offices never reopened.
In some cases there was good reason. Centro Colón on Paseo Colón in downtown San José may have suffered serious structural damage to some upper floors. Hospital México had almost all of its first floor windows blown out by the quake, and there was damage on other floors. On the third floor there were leaks of oxygen and gas. A team from the hospital and firemen were assessing the damage Thursday afternoon. The hospital was involved in what administrators called internal evacuation, that is moving patients and staff to secure locations within the building.
There were reports of some damage to structures in The Forum office park in Santa Ana. A building on the pedestrian boulevard in downtown San José was roped off by police, and streets were closed for several blocks on either side of the walkway. A crack appeared in the side of an Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad building in the downtown. By 5 p.m. the city had more than 90 percent of its offices and businesses closed.
The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias reported it has no estimate of total damage, but the amount is likely to be significant. Some bridges have collapsed and a number of roadways have either slide downhill or have been covered with slides from above.
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