Costa Rica

Costa Rica: Floods - Information Bulletin n° 1

In Brief
This Information Bulletin (no. 01/2004) is being issued based on the needs described below reflecting the information available at this time. CHF 24,000 has been requested from the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). The Federation does not anticipate further needs. Unearmarked funds to repay DREF are needed. This operation will be reported on through the DREF update.

The Situation

The rainy season in Costa Rica this year has been more severe than usual and heavy storms are now lashing the Caribbean lowlands. The rains are causing floods and landslides, displacing families living in vulnerable and high-risk areas, particularly in the province of Limon. The water level of nearby rivers has increased dramatically over the last week and subsequent flooding has damaged local infrastructure and destroyed many homes along the Caribbean coast. Many communities are now inaccessible as bridges have collapsed and roads are blocked with mud and flood waters. Telephone lines were also damaged and the power supply has been cut off in some of the hardest-hit areas.

The National Emergency Commission has declared a state of alert on the Caribbean coast and in the northern region of Costa Rica and local emergency committees were activated. Evacuation and search and rescue efforts are underway in Limon and emergency shelters have been established to accommodate affected families as well as those living in high-risk areas. So far, over 1,000 persons have been admitted in 10 temporary emergency shelters. Additional shelters are being set up to receive more families as the strong rains continue and are expected to worsen in some areas.

Areas affected by recent severe rains

See also: MAP - Costa Rica: Floods - Situation map

Preliminary damage and needs assessments are still underway. However, national authorities have already confirmed the need for clean water, food and basic relief supplies such as hygiene parcels, kitchen sets and water purification tablets to help the affected families to cope with this disaster. Due to the contamination of water sources caused by the floods, the health situation in Limon will continue to be monitored closely by the Costa Rican health authorities.

Red Cross and Red Crescent action

On Wednesday, 10 October, the Costa Rican Red Cross (CRRC) declared a state of Red Alert in the flood-stricken province of Limon. The National Society has already launched a relief operation and is working closely with the municipal authorities, the Ministry of Health, local emergency committees and other national relief organizations. Ongoing relief efforts have concentrated mostly on search and rescue activities and evacuations of affected families to temporary shelters. Up to now, temporary shelters have been established in the communities of Sarapiqui, Siquirres, Matina, Paraiso, Bribri, Galvilan Canta and Suretka. In the region of Talamanca, where the villages of Margarita, Celia and Sixaola remain cut off, the population is now being evacuated.

The National Society has deployed relief officers to coordinate local relief efforts in the most affected areas. Boats have also been sent and are being used in the rescue efforts. Trucks and tractors have also been mobilized to reopen and rehabilitate damaged roads. During the emergency phase of the operation, the Costa Rican Red Cross will continue to concentrate its efforts on reaching isolated communities and providing them with emergency health care, clean water, and food and non-food items. The National Society is also setting up and managing temporary shelters throughout the province of Limon and plans to distribute basic food rations to a total of 1,000 families for a period of one month. Once the emergency phase of the operation is completed, the CRRC will focus on public health activities and support the rehabilitation of contaminated water sources.

Since the onset of the disaster, the Costa Rican Red Cross has been working closely with the local emergency committees, some of which had previously received training on disaster preparedness from the National Society.

The Costa Rican Red Cross has instructed all of its branches located along the Caribbean coast to be ready for future emergencies and to increase their disaster preparedness activities in the most vulnerable communities.

All International Federation Operations seek to adhere to the Code of Conduct and are committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (SPHERE Project) in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. For support to or for further information concerning Federation operations in this or other countries, please access the Federation website at For longer-term programmes, please refer to the Federation's Annual Appeal.

MAP - Costa Rica: Floods - Situation map

For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:

- In Costa Rica: Costa Rican Red Cross, Guillermo Arroyo, National Emergency Director; email, phone (506) 233-7033, fax (506) 223-7628

- In Panama: Nelson Castaño, Pan American Disaster Response Unit; e-mail:, phone (507) 316-1082, fax (507) 316-1082
- In Geneva: Luis Luna, Federation Regional Officer, Americas department; e-mail, phone (41) 22-730-4274, fax (41) 22-733-0395

All International Federation assistance seeks to adhere to the Code of Conduct and is committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. For support to or for further information concerning Federation programmes or operations in this or other countries, or for a full description of the national society profile, please access the Federation's website at