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Pacheco: ‘Worst Flood in 100 Years’

January 21, 2005

RAIN, winds and swollen rivers hamperedemergency workers this week on theCaribbean slope assisting the thousands ofpeople whose homes were submerged inlast week’s flood.What President Abel Pacheco called“the worst flood in 100 years” was spurredby a record-breaking downpour that sentmore than 8,500 people to temporary shelters(TT, Jan. 14). The only comparableflood in recent memory displaced approximately6,000 people in Guanacaste in1999, according to the NationalEmergency Commission (CNE).More than a week after the delugebegan, nearly 2,000 people remained inshelters waiting for the threat to pass.Shelter populations increased slowlythroughout the week, and rains kept emergencyofficials on alert.ON Wednesday, Red Cross rescue crewsevacuated 100 people along the ChirripóRiver north of the Caribbean port city ofLimón, because it threatened to overflow.The flood’s toll is now 5 dead, includingthree men and two boys ages 8 and 11.A family of five from Talamanca has beenmissing since the flood began when thestrong current washed away their house.The floods levied a harsh economicexpense as well, with estimates early thisweek topping ¢15 billion ($32.7 million),according to CNE president Luis DiegoMorales, who said the amount is likely toincrease as experts continue to assess thedamages.THE bill includes damages to morethan 5,300 houses, 33 clinics, 36 schools,more than 100 bridges, 40 of which havecollapsed, 27 dikes and 6,600 hectares ofcrops, most of which are banana plantations.In additional, more than 4,000 wellsare contaminated.The Ministry of Public Works andTransportation (MOPT) speculated the costof road and bridge repair could total ¢2.8 billion($6.1 million). Losses include theBribrí-Sixaola highway near the southernCaribbean coast, a new road that had notbeen inaugurated before three kilometers ofits nearly 32 were uprooted, crumbled andrendered impassable to normal traffic.WORKERS have spent this weekclearing dirt, rocks and tree limbs fromhighways throughout the flood zones.Water continues to be a primary concernfor emergency officials. The Ministry of PublicHealth has sent work crews armed withpumps and chlorine to clear out the waterand mud and disinfect the contamined wells.As an emergency measure to treatwater in remote areas, ministry officialssent 5,000 chlorine tablets to theTalamanca area.SOFTENING the blow against workerson the banana farms ruined by the flood,the government pledged monthly subsidiesto employees of destroyed plantations.According to a decree signed Tuesdayby President Abel Pacheco, the MixedInstitute for Social Aid (IMAS) will provideall workers at damaged banana andplantain farms with monthly subsidies ofup to 50% of the approximately ¢100,400($219.20) salary they would normallyreceive, for up to two months.The government also offered to helprepair houses, schools, clinics and streets,and, as a longer-term goal, plans to relocatesome communities in frequentlyflooded areas.

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