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Thousands head home after flooding recedes

August 2, 2012

From the print edition

Thousands of Costa Rica residents started to return to their homes after enduring the most severe storms of the year. 

Inclement weather killed five and left some 30 communities isolated due to landslides and flooding. 

Heavy rains last weekend forced more than 2,000 Costa Ricans residents into temporary shelters, the National Emergency Commission reported. Rescue efforts have been successful to help those communities – located on the Caribbean slope and along the coast – cut off from main highways due to the rainstorms.

As of Wednesday, the commission reported that 10,933 people were affected by the rains, including 2,266 who needed temporary shelter. However, only 392 people remain in the shelters, in the cantons of Paraíso, Turrialba, Jiménez and Matina.

The report cited damage to six schools, 125 homes and four bridges. Water systems were broken in both Limón and Turrialba.

Three consecutive days of rain last weekend totaled more precipitation than the rest of the month of July, according to meteorologists.

A landslide caused by the rains killed an 84-year-old woman after she became trapped under rubble in her house in Turrialba. 

Three banana workers, ages 21, 25 and 46, were confirmed dead in the Caribbean canton of Matina. Another man drowned in the southern Caribbean region of Talamanca. In the same area, rains damaged some 200 hectares of banana plantations, the daily La Nación reported. 

The newspaper also reported the country’s biggest hydroelectric dam pro-ject, on the Revantazón River, suffered structural damage during the storm. The $1.1 billion project, set to be completed in 2016, is uninsured, meaning the Costa Rican Electricity Institute will have to cover the costs of the destruction. La Nación said no estimates were given for the cost of repairs. When it goes online, the dam will provide power for 525,000 homes.

President Laura Chinchilla last Sunday said her government provided 33 shelters for those affected by floods. She also said that school classes in Matina and Turrialba were temporarily suspended. 

The National Meteorological Institute (IMN) predicts the intense rainfall will lessen during the weekend.

Daniel Poledo, a meteorologist for the IMN, said the weekend forecast calls for dry conditions throughout most of the country, and the arid temperatures should sustain themselves into next week. The Pacific coast will experience the hottest temperatures, Poledo said.

“Cloudy skies will cover most the country, and intermittent showers are expected to occur in the southern Caribbean and the south Pacific,” Poledo said.

The IMN recommends continued vigilance in places where floods and landslides have occurred due to the current high saturation of water into the ground. 

Meteorologists expect the Caribbean coast to see an increase in wet conditions during upcoming months due to the influence of an El Niño climate pattern, predicted to begin in the month of August.

On Saturday, local artists will put on 12 hours of concerts to raise funds for those affected by floods in Turrialba. The show, from 9 a.m.-9 p.m., will take place at Parque Central Rafael in Turrialba. Organizers are asking for pastas, beans, diapers, soaps, disinfectants, tuna, pasta, water and other nonperishable food.

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