San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Country Keeps Giving as Flood Costs Rise

ESTIMATED damage costs for thewidespread Caribbean-slope floods earlierthis month exceed ¢34 billion ($94.4million) and are mounting rapidly,according to Luis Diego Morales, presidentof the National EmergencyCommission (CNE).Scattered rains continued to threatensome riverside communities for two weeksafter a record-breaking downpour forcedthousands of people from their homes andmany onto their rooftops or into the trees toescape rapidly swelling rivers and wait forrescue (TT, Jan. 14).Though the rain ceased Monday andthe forecast called for clouds and isolatedshowers, more than 600 people remainedin temporary shelters as of Wednesday,waiting for water levels to lower and thethreat of flooding to pass, emergency officialsreported.EMERGENCY officials converted 80community centers, churches, schools andgyms into temporary shelters for 12,000people over the course of the disaster,Morales said.The floods ravaged crops, knockedover bridges and homes, crumbled roads,broke dikes, damaged sewers, aqueducts,contaminated thousands of wells, swepthouses clean of furniture, and damagedschools and clinics in more than 200 communities.Estimated costs so far include ¢15 billion($32.6 million) in damage to bananaplantations, ¢8.5 billion ($18.4 million) indamage to other crops, and ¢10 billion($21.7 million) in road and bridge damage,among other losses, Morales reported.“The losses are increasing. They’remany millions of colones that we don’thave, so it’s a considerable loss,” he said.SINCE the beginning of the rescueoperations, hundreds of Red Cross volunteeremergency workers, working with theCNE, have distributed 250,000 liters ofwater, 16,000 meals and 15,900 bags ofclothes to flood victims as of press timethis week. The estimated cost of the suppliesis ¢216 million ($470,000).“We passed the impact phase of theemergency, but the Red Cross will continueworking in the zone, evaluatingconditions with an eye on identifyingprojects to carry out in the short andmedium terms within the areas of foodsecurity and potable water,” DeputyDirector of Rescues Jorge Rovira said ina statement.The disaster has attracted the attentionof the United Nations, which sent a team ofrepresentatives from several offices toassess damages late last week, reported theU.N. Office of Coordination of HumanitarianAffairs. The Food and AgricultureOrganization (FAO) is preparing a missionto the affected areas the second week ofFebruary to assess the damages to agriculture,the United Nations reported.IN a huge display of compassion, therest of the country has rallied to the victims’aid. TV Channel 7 and state and privatebanks collected donations in a specialaccount for the National EmergencyCommission, and this week announcedthey had raised nearly ¢547 million ($1.2million), a Channel 7 representative toldThe Tico Times.Half of the total was in cash and half ingoods donated from businesses, includinga truck, 55 beds, a pre-fabricated house,food and gasoline, among other supplies.Channel 7, Banco Nacional and theemergency commission will form a committeeto decide the best way to distributethe funds among those displaced andaffected by the flood.The Organization of American Statesdonated $15,000, the Foreign Ministryannounced yesterday.The government has funded ¢160 million($348,000) to date.Businesses and charity organizationshave given thousands of dollars to emergencyofficials and the flooded areas (TT,Jan. 21). They collected truckloads ofclothing and supplies and worked extensivelyto distribute them independently.REBECCA Copley, a missionary servingwith Food for the Hungry Costa Rica,made a supply delivery Jan. 21.“Children were mostly clothed only inunderwear or shorts, as their wet clotheshad rotted or drifted away in the flood. Wehad received mountains of clothing donations,so we were able to give each personseveral outfits. Many told me that they didn’tknow what they were going to do withoutfood and had been asking God to providea miracles,’’ she wrote to The TicoTimes.”Five hundred people will find temporaryemployment cleaning up and repairingdamages, Minister of Labor FernandoTrejos said this week. The jobs, combinedwith stipends for 1,200 out-of-work fieldhands on damaged plantain and bananaplantations, announced last week, are a legup for flood victims.THE government also plans to buildhouses on higher grounds for residents intwo of the most heavily flooded towns,Sixaola, along the river of the same nameon the Panamanian border, and Corina deMatina, about 30 kilometers inland fromthe Caribbean port city Limón.Construction should begin within amonth, Housing Minister Helio Fallasannounced this week.The relocations out of flood zones arethe prescription that Lidier Esquivel, theemergency commission’s chief of prevention,has been pushing for years.Both national and international studieshave reached the same conclusion: themain problem is the communities are in aflood plain, Esquivel told The Tico Times.“I don’t think we have the resourcesto confront a problem like that inSixaola,” he said. “We would need internationalfunding.”THE government has apparently listenedto the warnings now that this floodhas rung up such a high bill, and longtermplans include land-use studies andproper zoning laws to prevent peoplefrom building in risky areas, said JorgePolinaris, Minister of Planning andEconomic Policy.The Inter-American DevelopmentBank has agreed to finance the studies, thecost of which is often an obstacle to buildingprojects throughout the country.THOSE interested in helping with therelief efforts can deposit donations to theRed Cross in these bank accounts: BancoPopular 5000-8, Banco Nacional 100100-7,and Banco de Costa Rica 176003-3 (forcolones), 204-6 (for dollars).

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