Officials reported good news this week for the Caribbean province of Limón less than a month after a massive chemical fire near the port of Moín – which officials called one of the worst disasters in Costa Rica’s recent history – forced the evacuation of hundreds of area residents and left thousands without potable water.
Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias told reporters Wednesday that of the 20,000 left without water, service has been restored to all but 2,000. He said investigations by the Environment and Energy Ministry (MINAE) have shown that surface waters and ecosystems near the site of the accident “are returning to normal,” and that MINAE officials continue monitoring the area.
A team of health-care workers from the Public Health Ministry continues to visit communities in the area as a preventive measure, checking for reactions to the fire, which erupted Dec. 13 at a chemical storage facility belonging to Químicos Holanda Costa Rica S.A. Tanks of the flammable chemicals toluene and xylene exploded, sending a wide column of smoke into the air above the province and injuring three plant workers, two of whom died within days (TT, Dec. 15, Dec. 22, 2006). The third, Albert Sánchez, 33, is out of intensive care and in the plastic surgery unit at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in San José, according to hospital staff.
A total of 13 people have reported respiratory problems related to the fire to the Health Ministry, Arias said Wednesday.
Investigations after the fire showed welding work conducted near a tanker truck being filled with toxic chemicals caused the blaze, which lasted nearly 11 hours.