San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Telecom Blackout Hits Limón

Residents of Puerto Viejo and Cahuita and much of Costa Rica’s Caribbean region were without telephone or cell phone service Wednesday and much of Thursday, due to a fire in the transmission center of the Costa Rican Electricity Institute in Limón.

Crews focused on restoring emergency communications throughout much of Wednesday and on establishing radio bases with 3G and GSM cell phone technology.

But while a Thursday morning press release from ICE claimed that 95 percent of service had been restored, much of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo remained incommunicado.

Several calls made to the area at 5 p.m. Thursday returned busy signals.

“A phone is something that seems so small, but it’s so necessary,” said Rigoberto Ríos, a waiter at Bio Natura café in downtown Limón.

The 28-year-old, who lives in Río Banano, about 12 kilometers south of Limón, where all telecommunications – land lines, cell phones and Internet –went out, said, “If I want to call my mom, I can’t.”

Asked if he thought ICE would restore service promptly, he replied, “Maybe a foreign company could solve the problem faster.”

The fire was believed to have been caused by a malfunction in an air-conditioning unit.

–Chrissie Long and Meg Yamamoto

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