Costa Rica

Costa Rica: Earthquake OCHA Situation Report No.2

Situation Report
Originally published
This situation report is based on information received from the UN Emergency Technical Team (UNETT), the OCHA Regional Office in Panama and other partners.


- The earthquake of 8 January claimed the lives of 15 people, with 23 still missing. Some 3,700 people are in shelters.

- The Government of Costa Rica has requested financial international assistance for recovery and reconstruction.

- Search and rescue operations as well as assessments are still on going.


1. On 8 January 2009, an earthquake of 6.1 on the Richter Scale (depth 4.5 km) was registered 10 kilometres East from the Volcano Poas in Costa Rica. The epicentre (10.197=B0N, 84.159=B0W) was located 30 kilometres North-North West from the capital, San Jose. More than 1,200 aftershocks have been felt since then.

2. According to the National Emergency Commission (CNE), the earthquake has claimed the lives of 15 people, with 23 still missing and 100 injured. Some 25 temporary shelters have been set up to accommodate 3,725 people, of which almost 25% are children. Their immediate needs are for health, shelter, water and sanitation and protection. Search and rescue operations and evacuations are still on going; tents are being used to shelter the affected population as there are fears of further aftershocks. There is also concern, in the short and medium term, regarding the possibility of flooding and landslides.

3. According to the Local Emergency Committees, the most seriously affected communities are located in the provinces of Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago and San José. Damage in 61 communities has been reported so far. As of 14 January, some 36 counties - out of 81- are still under red alert. Five rural highways have collapsed and 5 bridges are not passable. The energy production and distribution, as well as the sewage system, have been affected. Houses have been damaged mostly in 13 communities, with 518 houses damaged, of which 251 are totally destroyed. However, electricity has been rapidly restored except in 6 communities. Water has been provided either by municipal aqueducts or water tankers, with special attention to farmers and their needs.

4. In the agriculture sector, some crops and the milk industry are in need of rehabilitation. The tourism industry has also been badly affected. The =A8El Angel=A8 production plant has been totally damaged with the loss of 200 jobs, while the sales of food and souvenirs are totally disrupted. One of the main hydro electrical plants has been damaged and will not function for a year. Another concern is the possible damage to hydroelectric dams close to San Jose that are assessed. In the health sector, no structural damage has been reported.


5. On January 12th, the Costa Rican Government declared a national mourning and issued a declaration of national emergency. The National Emergency Commission (CNE) is leading the response and has activated local committees to coordinate relief efforts. The priority is to ensure access to the affected communities, deliver assistance, evacuate isolated populations due to the risk of further seismic activity (mostly by air), manage temporary shelters and continue assessments. Assessments are on-going in coordination with the Red Cross, the National Social Security, Health agency, the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity, the Institute of Water and Sewage, the Judiciary Investigation Body (Organismo de Investigacion Judicial), Public Ministry, Fire Department and the 911 emergency-service.

6. The UNDMT and UNETT have activated their Emergency Response Plan (PIRESNU) and are monitoring the situation closely, in close contact with OCHA Regional Office in Panama and the REDLAC group. According to field visits reports, presented to the CNE, there are currently no disease outbreak. Health services are functioning normally except for two clinics. Staff, medicines and food are available. Work is underway to restore water services to 103, 535 persons in the affected zones. There is a need to improve hygiene conditions. The lack of heating is a concern in some of the shelters as well as overcrowding. The national authorities started to search for collective shelters in order to distribute the population in smaller groups to improve living conditions. Several schools in the area have been destroyed but a complete assessment is still pending. As the new school term begins in February, new infrastructure, school material and psychological support for the children affected by the earthquake will be urgently needed. Psychological support has been identified as a priority by the CNE and is being coordinated by the Citizen's Ombudsman and the national Health Institute (CCSS) with the Red Cross.

7. During the 13th January meeting of the UNDMT and UNETT with the National Emergency Commission, ways of cooperation with the United Nations were discussed, such as psychosocial support to children and adolescents, hygiene kits, permanent shelters, special shelters for pregnant women and advise on recovery. Other ways of cooperation are being discussed to support the middle and long term response. Agencies are also mobilizing their internal and regional resources and funds: OCHA released USD 40,000 in cash grants; UNDP BCPR is using its Track 1.1.3 funds and IFRC released some USD 50,000. The local UN System dispatched 40 latrines to 5 shelters. As requested by the CNE, the UN System is also providing cleaning services to another 8 latrines. UNFPA contributed to the emergency with hygiene kits and assisted in the coordination of a safe house for pregnant women. PAHO deployed a coordination specialist to support the Minister of Health, and sent 28,000 of chlorine tablets and water test kits from its warehouse in Panama. UNICEF has also offered regional support to the country team. BCPR will assist the UNETT and the Government by deploying two rehabilitation specialists. OCHA ROLAC deployed one RDRA to support the UN System and the Resident Coordinator in the aftermath of the emergency. In addition, UNICEF, UNFPA, PAHO, UN Habitat, FAO, ILO, UNDP are consulting with their headquarters to define funding sources to support the emergency and recovery in the next months.

8. Colombia and Nicaragua are sending rescue materials and humanitarian aid. The United States donated three helicopters to support rescue efforts and USAID/OFDA provided an initial $50,000 through the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica for local air support. The Chinese Government will provide USD 100,000.


9. The Government of Costa Rica has requested international financial assistance for recovery, especially for the reconstruction of the infrastructure (roads and bridges) and houses, as well as for the recovery of the agriculture and dairy products sector. The total damage has been estimated at around USD 100 million dollars. The CNE had also listed relief items required so far: sleeping bags, milk, non-perishable food, candles and personal hygiene items. The CNE has specifically requested 2,000 blankets, tents (approximately 200), emergency medical material, as well as logistic support (funding for helicopter flight time). This list may change, since the main CNE warehouse has experienced a fire due to some renovation work on 9 January and many relief items were lost.


10. Some CHF 55,000 (USD 49,273) has been allocated from the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the Costa Rican Red Cross in delivering immediate assistance to some 500 families (2,500 people) affected by the earthquake. DREF funds will also be used to purchase and distribute hygiene kits and kitchen sets, cover mobilization costs, search and rescue activities, the provision of pre-hospital evacuation and care, support to temporary shelter and further needs assessments. Unearmarked funds to repay the DREF are encouraged.

11. The Regional interagency group REDLAC met to discuss possible support to the UNETT. The OCHA Regional Office in Panama is closely monitoring the situation and is in close contact with the Resident Coordinator and UNETT. More information can be found on Reliefweb at and REDHUM at Humanitarian organizations and donors are encouraged to report all contributions (cash and in-kind) to OCHA's Financial Tracking Service at or through the on-line contribution form at

Contact Details

Desk Officer (New York)
Ms. Heidi Kuttab
Office Tel: +1 917 367-3365
Office Fax: +1 212 963-36 30

GCMS (Geneva)
Mr. Peter Neussl
Office Tel: +41 22 917 1511

OCHA Regional Office for America and the Caribbean
Mr. Douglas Reimer
Regional Disaster Response Adviser
Office Tel: +507 317-1748
Office Fax: +507 317-1744
Mobile: +507 6676-1689

Press Contact: (NY)
Ms. Stephanie Bunker
Office Tel : + 1 917-367-5126
Office Fax: + 1 212-963-1312

Ms. Elizabeth Byrs
Office Tel: + 41 22 917 26 53
Office Fax: + 41 22 917 00 20

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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