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Government Tallies Destruction Caused by Storm

Costa Rican emergency crews Tuesday called off the search for victims of last week’s deadly rains and landslides, having recovered 26 bodies. At least nine people remain missing.

Meanwhile, the Costa Rican government is beginning to calculate the total damage left by the storm.

In a press conference Tuesday, Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla announced that at least 2,540 homes had been affected by floods and landslides caused by indirect rains from Hurricane Tomás last week. The government said it is working to identify homes that endured a total loss, and said that it hopes to have those numbers by next week.

Teams of engineers from Costa Rica’s Mixed Institute for Social Aid (IMAS) began visiting houses last week to determine which homes can be repaired and which families will require new homes. In the case that a house is determined to be uninhabitable, the agency will provide rent for three months and food assistance to the home’s owners.

On Tuesday, 2,872 people remained in 64 temporary evacuation shelters nationwide, and Health Minister María Luisa Avila said that teams of specialists are visiting the evacuees to check on their health. So far, no serious health threats have been reported, although some evacuees reported problems with diarrhea.

The government has not yet calculated the total damage cost of the storm, but Chinchilla said that she expects the cost to be “extremely high,” and that road repairs will have the highest price tag.

“The country is equipped to deal with crises of certain levels,” Chinchilla said. “But this one of the first of this magnitude, which has caused damages in such a large portion of the national territory.”

On Tuesday, Costa Rica’s executive branch added four cantons to the state of emergency decree issued last week. At present, 38 of the country’s 81 cantons are in a state of emergency.

So far, the government has pooled ₡44.5 billion (roughly $86.4 million) in funds to attend to the disaster, including ₡23 billion for it’s Extraordinary Circumstances Fund, which legislators are expected to approve Tuesday night.

The government has also transferred ₡17 billion from its own budget to the National Emergency Commission (CNE). IMAS has posted ₡1.5 billion for the disaster, and Chinchilla said on Tuesday that she expects other public agencies to contribute disaster relief money by the end of the week.

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT) reported that 272 kilometers of roads remained closed on Tuesday, but that the ministry has opened up “regulated passage” between Quepos and Manual Antonio on the central Pacific coast.

Officials from the Costa Rican Water and Sewer Institute (AyA) said on Tuesday that some 120,000 residents across Costa Rica still have no running water in their homes, mainly in Acosta, Alajuelita, Aserrí and Desamparados, south of San José, and in several sectors of Santa Ana and Escazú, west of San José. The institute estimates that repairs to pipes and aqueducts in these areas will take several weeks, and that the overall cost for repairs will reach ₡2.8 billion ($5.4 million).

In the meantime, AyA is distributing water in cistern trucks to affected neighborhoods.

Vice President Luis Liberman said Tuesday’s press conference that “we do not know the total cost of the damage,” but that next week the government will decide if it has enough funds to meet the crisis or whether Costa Rica “will look for additional funding elsewhere.”

Meanwhile, Costa Rica’s Red Cross has opened up its bank accounts to accept donations for disaster relief. To donate to the Red Cross, make a deposit to the Banco Nacional to account number 100100-7 in colones, or account number 68666-7 in dollars, or to Banco de Costa Rica account number 176003-3 in colones, or 204-6 in dollars.

On Tuesday, the Organization of American States (OAS) donated $25,000 to five countries in Central America and the Caribbean, including Costa Rica, which have been impacted by hurricanes this year. Belize, Haiti, Santa Lucia and San Vicente also received OAS assistance.


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