San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Violent Deaths Are Up, Red Cross Reports

The Red Cross has responded to an average of 11 more cases of violent death per month in the first 10 months of this year than in the same period in 2007, and more total deaths than in all of 2006, according to statistics released this week.

Ninety-seven people died in the care of emergency responders last month, a time when the Red Cross attended to an average of six patients a day. That’s higher than the monthly average of just over 92 violent deaths counted this year and brings the total number year-to-date to 925.

Last year, the Red Cross recorded 966 violent deaths, about 81 per month. “We’re really high (this year). These are really high numbers,” said Red Cross spokesman Freddy Rojas.

The Red Cross transported 199 people in critical condition by ambulance to local hospitals in October.

The numbers of violent deaths include only those who died while in the care of the Red Cross, and not people who were transported to hospitals and died later.

Traffic deaths accounted for 38 percent of deaths, and guns and other weapons, such as knives, another 26.8 percent. San José led the tally with 34 deaths, followed by Puntarenas, where 16 were recorded.

The numbers are a marked decrease over the 119 deaths in October 2007, when some 20 people died in weather-related incidents, including 14 in a landslide in Atenas de Alajuela, northwest of San José, Rojas said.

Only five deaths were attributed to inclement weather last month, he said.

As in other countries, the Red Cross in Costa Rica is a private organization, but here it serves a public function as a first responder in emergency situations, as there is no state or public emergency system. A bill approved by the Legislative Assembly on Thursday will add a tax to phone bills over ¢5,000 to raise an estimated ¢2.2 billion ($4 million) for the Red Cross, or a quarter of the group’s annual budget.

–Holly K. Sonneland


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