San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

State of Emergency Declared 6.2 Quake Agitates Country

Damage caused by last Saturday’s pre-dawnmagnitude 6.2 earthquake – the worst jolt to hitCosta Rica in more than a decade – promptedPresident Abel Pacheco to declare a state ofemergency in various parts of the country thisweek.The temblor, which struck at 2:07 a.m., awokeresidents in all corners of the country, including thevisiting King of Spain and other foreign heads ofstates in San José for the 14th Latin American-Iberian Summit (see separate story).Not having felt a quake so strong since 1991, when amagnitude 7.6 earthquake in the Caribbean province ofLimón caused nearly 100 deaths, Costa Ricans aroundthe country remained on the streets after Saturday’s joltin fear of aftershocks. More than 100 occurred, four ofwhich exceeded 4.0 on the Richter scale.The earthquake’s epicenter was approximately 9kilometers northwest of the central Pacific port city of Quepos, near the town of Parrita. Severalfamilies Parrita and in nearby Isla Damaslost their homes.Residents in Parrita were left withoutelectricity until noon Saturday and withoutwater until Sunday.SATURDAY’S quake did not directlycause any deaths, although theNational Emergency Commission (CNE)reported six earthquake-related fatalities,including five elderly citizens who hadheart attacks.The earthquake caused an estimated¢2.5 billion (approximately $5.6 million)in damages, commission director LuisDiego Morales said at the government’sweekly Cabinet meeting Tuesday.These numbers, and recognition ofwidespread damage to homes, schools,roads and other facilities in the centralPacific region, prompted President AbelPacheco to declare a state of emergency in20 affected cantons in the provinces ofPuntarenas, on the Pacific coast, San José,in the Central Valley, and Cartago, east ofthe capital.The declaration allows the EmergencyCommission to obtain state emergencyfunds, direct transfers from governmentinstitutions and international organizationsand donations from private parties.NATIONAL Seismological Network(RSN) seismologist Mario Fernández saidthe quake was a relatively shallow 18 kmdeep, which explains why it was felt sostrongly.He said Saturday’s movement wasdue to a cortical rupture on the Paquitafault line, on the Caribe tectonic plate,which is different from previous tremorsin the central Pacific, whose epicenterswere mainly on the ocean floor andcaused by the interaction of the Cocosand Caribe plates.He also denied rumors another earthquakewould soon follow Saturday’s.“Not a single person in the world canpredict an event of this kind with any certainty,”he said. “This rumor is based ontwo or three tremors in Quepos that hadfollow-ups (in the past). We cannot establisha theory from such a small number,”he said.The Quepos area has generated importantseismic activity in the past, includingtwo 7.0 earthquakes in March 1882 andSeptember 1952, Fernández said.RESIDENTS in the affected areasspent the days after the quake recoveringfrom the shock.“Now I’m left without my home andthe business I used to support my family,”Alicia Mata told the Tico Times Saturday,while the eight family members whoshared her house in Pocares, approximately5 km south of Parrita, salvaged theirbelongings from the ruins of the woodenstructure.Mata said that because of a walkingimpediment, she was unable to leave herbed during the earthquake and had to berescued by neighbors.The family of Fabio Araya, who estimateddamages to his home and businessin downtown Parrita at ¢500,000 (approximately$1,100) improvised a sleeping areain their front yard after the earthquakecracked their home’s walls.THE head of the National EmergencyCommission described housing as thehardest-hit sector, with 132 severely damagedhomes, of which 94 are located in thecentral Pacific area, mostly on the island ofDamas, northwest of Quepos.A total of 390 houses throughout thecountry have been reported as sufferingdamage, with losses of approximately ¢1.3billion ($2.9 million) according to theEmergency Commission.The quake also produced more than¢400 million ($890,000) in damage toschools in Parrita, Quepos and the cantonof Leon Cortés, in the province of SanJosé.Evaluations by the National Center ofSchool Infrastructure (CENIFE) foundseven institutions in the Quepos area suffered“important damages.” Throughoutthe country, a total of 56 schools reportedearthquake-related damages.Classes in the central Pacific regionwere officially cancelled until Wednesday,according to the Ministry of Education.Morales said this measure was taken “toavoid putting students at risk in case ofanother earthquake.”WATER lines, roads and public serviceswere all affected in the area.“Water is vital in all emergencies,”Morales explained. “The key area here isParrita, where there is a problem with thecentral pipeline, which the National Waterand Sewer Service (AyA) has been workingon since the weekend.”Approximately 6,000 people inParrita were affected by water supplyproblems until Sunday, when five newreservoir tanks of 1,000 liters each andtwo cistern tanks were brought to providepotable water while AyA fixes the communityaqueduct and reestablishes itsregular service.Authorities said 27 stretches of roadsfrom the metropolitan area to the Pacificcoast were damaged by the quake, includingRoute 34, between Parrita and Quepos,where the road presents large cracks andonly one lane is open in some areas.The Hatillo bridge, between Queposand Dominical south along the coast, toppledduring the quake. However, whenconditions allow, driving across the riveris an option for all vehicles, according tothe National Transit Police.The Braulio Carrillo Highway, whichconnects San José to the Caribbean slope,was closed for much of the day Saturdayas workers cleared away several largemudslides.The quake damaged at least 17bridges throughout the country, accordingto Morales, which will cost approximately¢160 million ($360,000) to repair.Morales assured the press Tuesdaythat all damaged roads are being fixedand have normal or regulated access. TheNational Roadway Council (CONAVI)has taken charge of repairing nationalroads, while municipal governments andthe Ministry of Public Works andTransport (MOPT) will take care of localroads, he said.THE Social Security Clinic of Parritawas severely damaged when the earthquakecaused part of the ceiling to collapseand cracked the floor.Dr. Cristel Knohr, who was on duty atthe time of the earthquake along with anurse and guard, said the clinic, whichhad no patients at the time, was immediatelyleft without electricity, and he hadto manually turn on the generator,because it did not start automatically.He reported only a few patients with“minor injuries and concussions, or panicattacks” induced by the earthquake, but“nothing serious.”As the gravest case of physical injuryin the area, director of operations for theCosta Rican Red Cross, GuillermoArroyo, mentioned a child from Parritawhose skull was fractured by an objectthat fell during the earthquake.Manuel Pensatto, a 32-year-oldItalian who lost control of his motorcycleon the General Cañas highway shortlyafter the earthquake and died, wasdescribed in early press reports as anotherquake-related fatality but may havecrashed because of excessive speed,according to Transit Police spokesmanFelix Salazar.ARROYO said reports received immediatelyafter the earthquake prompted theRed Cross to dispatch 97 first-aid workersand 27 rescue units to the central Pacificcoast, where most stayed until Sundayafternoon, assisting with the distribution ofwater, housing inspections in DamasIsland, and relocating families to the twotemporary shelters set up in the area.Although some residents refused toevacuate their homes, nearly 70 peoplewere taken to the shelters, where theywill remain until the Mixed Institute forSocial Aid (IMAS) provides funds fornew housing.Area resident Hugo Cajinas, who saidhe and his wife escaped their ruined home through a window after the earthquake,said the convenience store they run,Comisariato Damas, probably will have to berebuilt.“We are not too worried because we ownanother house, and will move our belongingsthere today. The problem is one of us willhave to spend the night here, guarding theremains of our store from thieves,” he saidSaturday afternoon.AS part of a series of information onemergency preparedness, the U.S. Embassyin San José this week released guidelines onwhat to do during an earthquake.The embassy recommends keeping a battery-powered radio handy and tuning in tolocal media immediately after an emergencyfor instructions relating to possible evacuationsor emergency assistance.Embassy officials recommend foreignerskeep important documents such as passportsor naturalization papers together in an easyto-reach place. Also, the embassy suggestskeeping an emergency supply of food andwater at home, as well as a first-aid kit.(Tico Times reporters Rebecca Kimitch andKatherine Stanley contributed to this article.)

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