San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Seismically, 2009 a ‘Lively’ Year

On Thursday afternoon, Jan 8, a 6.2  magnitude earthquake struck Costa Rica some 10 kilometers east of Poás volcano near the mountain town of Cinchona, about an hour’s drive northwest of San José. The shake caused landslides that buried the nation’s treasured La Paz waterfalls and caused the collapse of hundreds of homes.

The tremor and aftershocks, along with ensuing landslides, killed an estimated 34 people and left nearly 3,000 homeless. The event was deemed the worst earthquake in Costa Rica in 18 years, and it became known as the “Cinchona earthquake,” after the town on the eastern slope of the Poás volcano that

was destroyed by the quake.

But the shakes didn’t stop there.

The Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI), based at the NationalUniversity in Heredia (UNA), north of San José, registered more than 2,000 tremors along the same fault line as the Cinchona quake, making 2009 the most seismic year of the 21st century in Costa Rica.

“It was a lively year,” said Javier Pacheco, a seismologist at the UNA. “Tremors and aftershocks continued in the Central Valley all year long, and 52 percent were related to the event on Jan. 8.”

Since Cinchona, one other death in Costa Rica was linked to an earthquake. A landslide in San Vito de Coto Brus in the southern zone killed a 15-year-old high school girl who was on her way home from school on Friday, Nov. 13.

The landslide occurred shortly after a 5.1-magnitude earthquake, centered near Parrita, on the Central pacific coast, shook most of the country that day. Authorities said the tremor shook loose a hillside already saturated with rainwater.

Two other quakes that registered greater than 6.0 also occurred this year, both in the Golfo Dulce.

Those who survived the Cinchona earthquake but lost their homes will soon have a new neighborhood.

The Costa Rican Housing Ministry paired with the Costa Rican Association of Engineers and Architects to design and build the “Nueva Cinchona,” a 600-hectare community in Cariblanco, a district of Sarapiquí, Alajuela, six kilometers from the old Cinchona.

Officials, who already have presented the blueprints, hope to complete the project by June 2010.

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