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Costa Rica living earthquakes Introduction

Earthquake January 8, 2009

The upsides of living in a seismically active country are the hot springs and I suppose visiting active volcanoes. The downside is of course the possibility of having your house collapse onto your head or other nasty effects caused by an EARTHQUAKE.

Costa Rica has more fault lines criss-crossing its territory than cracks in a broken sidewalk. At least a few of these fault lines are always up to something; their subterranean movements shaking the ground when you least expect it. Yesterday, some chunk of a tectonic plate moved enough to cause a small earthquake (here called a temblor). It was a gentle shaking back and forth and hardly anyone took notice. Apparently though, that fault line was just getting warmed up for today, stretching a bit before jumping awake with the 6.2 earthquake that occurred around 2 P.M.

My wife and I had just got back from bringing my parents to the airport. I haven’t had a chance to speak with them yet because the phones didn’t work for an hour after the quake. At least their flight was able to leave after a bit of a delay. I was in the very middle of making lunch; chicken patties and plantains in the electric skillet, refried beans in the microwave when the ground began to shake strongly. This was no gentle swaying, no friendly temblor. No, this tinkled the cheap chandeliers that came with the apartment, opened the doors, toppled the neighbors pots and pans, and shook the foundations.

After the surprise segwayed into realization, I ran into the bedroom to find my wife on the bed praying over Miranda. Despite living here her whole life, she was so scared that she didn’t know what to do. I got her to her feet, grabbed Miranda and got us to the front door frame. On the way, I distinctly recall seeing the lights going on and off and everything swaying. Once we got to the door, the quake was almost over. We stayed there for a while in case of strong aftershocks but didn’t feel any at that time (I have while writing this though; several temblores of short duration). At the end of the shaking we lost all electricity and cell phone connections. The streets rang with car alarms, a few people standing around outside of their homes. A woman with 4 children was waiting to use a corner phone; her face was smeared with make-up from sobbing. Ari’s mom arrived shortly thereafter and told us she had electricity so we went to her house to have lunch, our half-cooked lunch food on hold in the electric skillet.

We have been watching and listening to the news ever since. Sadly at least two children died, trapped beneath a landslide. For the most part, though, people were just very frightened. My mother-in-law said it was one of the strongest she has ever felt during her whole life here. Windows broke in some of the taller buildings and there was structural damage near the epicenter; San Pedro de Poas. The road near the La Paz waterfall gardens and Cinchona is severely damaged; one guy said it has disappeared in parts. I’m not sure if the birding cafes at Cinchona were affected- hopefully they are still there. In any case, if you hoped to drive down the road from Varablanca to Cinchona, change your plans because that road will not be opened for a while.

editor’s note: The death toll from the Cinchona earthquake ended up being around 50, including some people I knew from the birding cafes. After more than a year later, the road through Cinchona is still officially closed and the town still abandoned.

13 replies on “Earthquake January 8, 2009”

I’m glad u n ur family is well. My ma said she just read it on da Internet, so I had 2 check ur blog. Thanks 4 lettin us kno u r alright. U n ur family r in our thoughts.
Take care,

It sure has had disasterous results.
We never felt anything in Guanacaste where were are, this time.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this tragic occurrence.

wow! Hard to believe that road was wiped out by the waterfall—we were at that waterfall and standing right there ealier in 2008. Must have been an unbelievably large landslide caused by the earthquake to wipe out that part of the road that runs toward the bridge near the waterfall. That is very tragic about the children that died. Thank God you guys were not hurt in the quake and that your home is not damaged. How scary that ordeal must have been…yes, thank God you, Ari, little Miranda & family are all okay

Glad you’re okay, you say there are fault lines zigzagging the country…

After some searching, I could find absolutely no maps of the fault lines in Costa Rica.

The map must be there. Do you know where I could see a map of its fault lines? A site or something? Couldn’t even find the map on the CR Seismology/Volcano site.

Thanks a lot

Great to hear that you are safe Pat . Hopefully everything will recover in time , including the habitat affected.

What’s the name of the earthquake fault in Costa Rica? I’m writing some educational materials and can’t find the answer in the ton of materials I collected on my 7 trips there.

Thanks. Hope today is a much more peaceful day for you and yours.

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