Tropical Storm Alma dumps on Costa Rica

May 30, 2008

At least 120 homes have been flooded, and bridges and roads across the country have been blocked or damaged by a rare tropical storm that hit the Pacific coast early yesterday.“In Parrita, and other affected zones, we have 2,500 people affected directly,” said Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias. “The situation is grave in San Isidro, Parrita and Guanacaste.”The National Emergency Commission (CNE) announced a red alert, its highest, for the northwestern province of Guanacaste and the Central Pacific.“We have machinery…in all of the affected towns,” said CNE president Daniel Gallardo. “The situation is under control. We´re working 24 hours a day.”As many as 60 accidents had been attributed to the tempest – called Tropical Storm “ Alma ” – by early Thursday morning, according to the Transportation Ministry (MOPT).The Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) reports that 42,000 homes were left without electricity in the Nicoya Peninsula.ICE also took safety precaution early yesterday, evacuating some 1,100 employees from the Pirrís hydroelectric power development project, in the Puntarenas province.Winds were reported as high as 55 mph as of mid-day, according to the National Meteorology Institute (IMN). When winds reach 74 mph, a storm is considered a Category 1 hurricane.Juan Santamaría International Airport west of San José and Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia, Guanacaste, were open and running as normal.Tobías Bolaños Airport in Pavas, between Juan Santamaría and San José, was closed Thursday, said Miguel Ortega, an airport manager.Tropical storms usually form in the Caribbean sea.“This is the first time a tropical storm has hit the Pacific coast in this location in 120 years,” said José Joaquín Aguero, an IMN meteorologist. “The last time this happened was around 1887.”The rains, which began last weekend, look to continue, particularly along the Pacific as the storm moves toward Nicaragua.Alma is the first tropical storm of the year. Hurricane season begins June 1. Government officials are bracing themselves for hard rains.Rodrigo Arias, the president´s brother, said the nation plans to ask for financial help to cover the costs of the storm. “There´s never enough funds ready for this type of situation,” he said. “We´re going to seek out private and foreign aide.”

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