Tsunami surge causes minor damage in southern Costa Rica

March 11, 2011

Waves brought on by the earthquake in Japan last week damaged boats in the Osa Peninsula and caused peculiar tidal surges. While most of the country did not endure the impact of the projected tsunamis that were projected to hit Costa Rica on Friday afternoon, harbors in Osa experienced unsafe surges in the tides.

According to Blue Eco Blog, “the lagoon of the Agujitas River on the west side of Bahia Drake on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast received various strong surges starting around 5pm on (Friday)…Later in the night around 11PM , Bradd Johnson of Aguila de Osa Lodge saw a much larger surge wave enter the river mouth very quickly. Within seconds two boats belonging to Marleny Jimenez’s Drake Bay Resort upended and filled with water.” 

Several other boats broke free of their lines, according to the blog, and tides remain erratic in the area.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) issued a tsunami warning for the Costa Rican Pacific coast on Friday in the wake of the massive magnitude-8.9 earthquake that rocked Japan on Friday morning. According to the PTWC, all nations with coasts bordering the Pacific Ocean were on alert throughout Friday.

The Costa Rican National Emergency Commission (CNE) has labeled the tsunami warning a “green alert” and does not consider it to be threatening. According to CNE spokesman Reynaldo Carballo, the waves caused by the tsunami were recorded at about a meter’s height when they reached Hawaii, meaning little concern exists that they will strike Costa Rica with much force.

“The green alert is more of a preventive measure,” Carballo told The Tico Times.

The U.S. embassy in Costa Rica released a message urging “U.S. citizens on the Pacific coast to take all necessary precautions, including but not limited to moving inland, away from low-lying coastal areas.”

The Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) has issued a tsunami warning for the Pacific port cities of Golfito, Quepos, Puntarenas and Playas del Coco.

The Education Ministry will decide at 11 a.m. whether schools along the Pacific coast will be closed in response to the warning.

The magnitude-8.9 earthquake, the fifth-largest in history since earthquake magnitude was first recorded in 1900, was followed by several aftershocks, some registering over magnitude 7.0. The Kyodo News has reported seeing 200 to 300 bodies in the waters surrounding Sendai. The death toll is expected to rise above 20,000.

Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry released a statement on the disaster: “Costa Rica joins the demonstration of solidarity with the family of the victims, the victims and we hope for a speedy return to normalcy in the communities that have suffered the force of nature.”

According to the ministry, 241 Costa Ricans live in Japan, but none near the impact zone. For Costa Ricans with family in Japan, the Foreign Ministry has set up two emergency phone lines: 2211 0869 and 2258 2389.

Costa Rica faced a similar scare a year ago – which turned out to be a false alarm – after an 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile led to a tsunami alert.

Follow the PTWC’s tsunami warning status at www.weather.gov/ptwc/.

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