Friday, January 30, 2009

Tiquicia's Blog now features audio!

Getty ImagesI am happy to announce that from now on Tiquicia's Blog will start using audio. Even though there might not be an audio post every day the idea is to start using this feature more and more.

Written articles will continue to dominate this blog for now, but the use I give to the audio will depend on the acceptance it gets from you, the visitors of my blog.

Here is a brief message that I prepared to test this new feature. Please tell me what you think of it.

Pura vida!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Homicides in Tiquicia up 24.6 percent in 2008

(Inside Costa Rica) - A study by the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) reveals that homicides are up 24.6% over last year. The oIJ reports 86 more homicide cases in 2008 over the the 2007.

In total there were 435 murders (1.2 daily) in 2008, while in 2007 the number of murders reported were only 349 (0.95 daily).

The largest number of homicides were recorded in the capital, were 214 murders were investigated in 2008, compared to only 172 in 2007.

The area with the sharpest increase wa Cartago, east of San Jose, were the number of homicides doubled from seven cases in 2007 to fourteen in 2008.

Judicial authorities say that homicides is the main cause of the majority of "violent" deaths in the country, saying that problem with drugs and drug trafficking the cause of the majority of the murders.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

European coffee buyers sniffing around Costa Rica

By Vanessa I. Garnica
Tico Times Staff

With pen and paper in hand and an abundance of cameras in tow, a group of coffee connoisseurs, mostly from Europe, have been making their way through Costa Rica this week.

Their goal is to examine every detail of the Costa Rican coffee making process, from the moment a bean picker grabs the fruit to the instant it's dropped off at the mills to be weighed, peeled, washed, dried and placed in storage.

The group is part of the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE), whose members are coffee roasters, buyers and distributors from throughout the world.

The visitors, coming from places such as the Netherlands, Germany, Ukraine, England, Hungary, Sweden and South Korea are in search of quality coffee, but they are also interested in environmentally friendly coffee processes, fair-trade regulations and fair working conditions for the crop pickers.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Prostitutes to teach each other techniques to avoid AIDS

(EFE) - Dozens of prostitutes in Costa Rica will learn how to protect themselves from AIDS thanks to the advice of their colleagues within the framework of a program financed by the World Bank and being conducted by a local non-governmental organization.

The "La Sala" Association for the Improvement of Quality of Life of Sexual Workers, the NGO pursuing the project, aims to train a group of prostitutes so that they can be the ones who teach other women in the sex trade.

In remarks published Sunday in the daily La Nacion, one of the project's coordinators, Maria Diaz, said that the goal is to "empower sexual workers in the matter of prevention" of AIDS.

In all, the La Sala officials will train 22 prostitutes to impart the message to their colleagues.

The project will be started in San Jose but later it will be extended to the Caribbean port of Limon and the Pacific port of Puntarenas. It will cost $50,000, which has been contributed by the World Bank.

Diaz said that the techniques designed to avoid contracting AIDS will not be limited only to using condoms when engaging in sexual relations with customers, but also in teaching the women what their sexual rights are.

It is expected that the program will have a multiplier effect among the country's prostitutes and will also raise awareness among some 1,100 regular male customers and brothel owners.

"This part will be difficult. What we want is for the (brothel) managers to understand the advantages of having their locales free of HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) and for them to promote them as places where they apply preventive practices," she said.

The number of prostitutes in Costa Rica is not known for certain, but it has been documented that in addition to Costa Rican women, there are also large numbers of Nicaraguans, Dominicans and Colombians practicing the trade. EFE

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Poas Volcano National Park reopens after quake

By Leland Baxter-Neal
Tico Times Staff

Poas Volcano National Park, Costa Rica's most-visited national park, reopened to the public Tuesday for the first time since the devastating Jan. 8 earthquake struck just 10 kilometers east of the volcano.

Poas Volcano gave two small phreatic eruptions, which happens when magma meets ground surface water, on Jan. 12 and 13. However, seismologists have said those eruptions were not directly related to the quake, which was the result of plate movement along a local fault line, and not volcanic activity.

A team from the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET) conducted an inspection of the park the day after the quake and determined the park facilities did not sustain any permanent damage.

Rafael Gutierrez, director of the Cordillera Volcanica Central Conservation Area, the MINAET office that oversees state lands in the region, said the park was kept closed in part because the earthquake had knocked out power and ruptured the water lines into the park. Those were however repaired over the weekend, he said at a press conference Tuesday.

The park was also kept close because the National Emergency Commission (CNE) needed the roads clear for rescue work, Gutierrez said.

The park is back to normal operations except the Botos Lagoon, a popular but remote attraction, which will remain off limits just in case the park needs to be evacuated quickly, Gutiérrez said.

The area has continued to receive aftershocks, some reaching a magnitude greater than 4, but scientists say those routine aftershocks should quickly decrease in magnitude.

“The situation is normal,” Gutierrez said. “We are monitoring it daily to avoid any emergencies or take action at the necessary moment.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Costa Rica, China begin free trade talks

(Photo: Eddy Rojas/La Nacion)(Xinhua) - Costa Rica and China began on Monday the first round of negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), said the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry.

The two sides expect to set the "roadmap" for the free trade talks in the first round of negotiations, including the layout for the agreement and steps to be taken for its realization.

A total of six rounds of talks will be held on the agreement, and Costa Rica hopes all the negotiations will wrap up by May 2010,said Marco Vinicio Ruiz, Costa Rican Trade Minister.

China and Costa Rica agreed to launch talks for a free trade agreement during Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the Central American country in November 2008.

China is Costa Rica's second largest trading partner, and Costa Rica China's second biggest in Central America. Their two-way trade is growing rapidly, with the volume hitting $2.87 billion in 2007.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Costa Rica calls off search for earthquake victims

San Jose, Costa Rica, (Reuters) - Costa Rican authorities called off their search on Monday for victims of landslides from an deadly earthquake 11 days ago.

Rescue teams have pulled 23 bodies from the Poas volcano region, where waves of earth buried cars and crushed homes during a 6.2 magnitude quake on Jan 8. Seven people are still missing, officials said.

Shifting ground and the threat of landslides have menaced rescuers digging through rubble in search of survivors.

"The victims are presumed to be in areas that are inaccessible because so much earth would have to be moved and because of dangerous conditions," said Reinaldo Carballo, a spokesman for the country's emergency response agency.

Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination because of its lush natural parks, volcanoes and rich wildlife, but it is prone to natural disasters like the rest of Central America.

Government officials preliminarily estimate the damage of the earthquake at $100 million.

(Reporting by John McPhaul, Editing by Sandra Maler)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Western Union donates $50,000, sets money transfer services to help the Costa Rican Red Cross

Children stand in a tent at a field used as a temporary refuge for earthquake survivors in Laguna of Fraijanes, 65 km (40 miles) north of San Jose, January 12, 2009. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate (COSTA RICA)San Jose, Costa Rica (Business Wire)- To help the earthquake victims of Alajuela, Costa Rica, The Western Union Foundation today donated $50,000 to the Costa Rican Red Cross, a humanitarian relief organization.

The grant is part of the Western Union Our World, Our FamilySM global initiative.

Additionally, for individuals and corporations in the United States wishing to donate to disaster relief efforts in Alajuela, Costa Rica, Western Union has set up a Quick Collect® account benefiting the Costa Rican Red Cross.

Western Union will provide U.S. customers with no fee Quick Collect® money transfer services for donations up to $1,000 until March 2, 2009. Customers should make donations by requesting code city EARTHQUAKERELIEF CR (in the U.S. only). The code should enter EARTHQUAKERELIEF, CR in the account field.

Western Union Foundation President Luella Chavez D’Angelo said, "The earthquake damages to Alajuela and other parts of Costa Rica are catastrophic, leaving families and children in need of help. The Western Union Foundation and our Western Union employees in Costa Rica are committed to helping those in needs."

“The Costa Rican Red Cross will invest the funds to assist 5,000 families who lost their homes, by addressing their basic humanitarian and early recovery needs including the distribution of emergency supplies, hygiene products, non-perishable food and clean water,” said Miguel Carmona, President of the Costa Rican Red Cross.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Death toll in Costa Rica quake rises to 23

Former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher smiles at Nidalin Mendoza, 5, during his visit to shelter for people left homeless by Thursday's 6.1-magnitude earthquake in Poasito de Vara Blanca, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)Seven-times Formula One champion Michael Schumacher visited the disaster area

San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) — The death toll from Costa Rica's magnitude-6.2 earthquake has risen to 23 after three more bodies were found.

The country's judicial investigative agency says the latest bodies were uncovered at the site of a collapsed restaurant in the town of Cinchona. The victims were the restaurant's owner and two of his children.

The quake rocked the Central American nation last Thursday, unleashing massive landslides.

President Oscar Arias called for international aid for the devastated area on Wednesday.

German Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, who was in Costa Rica for a previously scheduled appearance at a traffic safety event, toured the region around Poas volcano -which was hit hardest- with Costa Rican Transport Minister Karla Gonzalez.

Schumacher was shocked and concerned over the extent of the damage caused by last week's earthquake in Costa Rica. The seven-times Formula One champion noted sadly that "so many families have lost their homes."

Colombian Air Force helicopter helps dig out victim

A rescue team recovers a body from a car trapped in a landslide in Cinchona, 70 km (44 miles) north of San Jose, January 12, 2009. (Photo: Reuters/Carlos Ulate)by Uri Ridelman

On Monday morning, with the help of a Colombian Air Force helicopter and after almost three hours of hard but careful work, two Red Cross workers and a fireman managed to recover the body of Rafael Herrera Esquivel from under a landslide.

The rescue team was suspended from a helicopter as it dug out the body of Herrera, 47, who was buried in his car on a steep incline. The vertical rescue had to be carried out from the helicopter because the car was literally hanging off the cliff and buried under tons of earth.

A rescue team uses a helicopter to recover a body from a car trapped in a landslide in Cinchona, 70 km (44 miles) north of San Jose, January 12, 2009. (Photo: REUTERS/Ministry of Public Security/Handout)The main concern for the rescue officials was the threat of another landslide due to the constant aftershocks that are still hitting the epicenter area of the January 8 earthquake and the unstability of the slope.

Herrera's body was discovered on Sunday by a searcher that noticed a white piece of metal protruding near a steep incline. Risking his life, the searcher managed to get close enough to see a hand with a ring on it. After taking the ring off and giving it to the authorities it was possible to identify the victim.

A Colombian Soldier hangs from a helicopter as he uses a shovel to dig out a car trapped in a landslide in Cinchona, 70 km (44 miles) north of San Jose, January 12, 2009. (Photo: REUTERS/Ministry of Public Security/Guillermo Solano)Before the recovery was carried out a Colombian soldier examined the area suspended from the helicopter to dig the car out and evaluate the complexity of the operation.

Information from newswires, La Nacion and Diario Extra was used in this article.

21 earthquake victims identified

Updated list of the victims of the earthquake. So far 21 have been identified by the Costa Rican authorities. The pictures were published by Diario Extra. Victims are Costa Rican unless otherwise noted.

-Francisco Zamora Valerio, 46 years old
-Francela Zamora Cambronero, 19 years old
-Daniela Zamora Cambronero, 16 years old
-Gipsy Tatiana Oliva Diaz, 7 years old
-Marisela Arguello Diaz, 12 years old
-Roberto Jara Jimenez, 34 years old
-Jeremy Alfaro Ruiz, 28 years old
-Edwin Masis Villegas, 38 years old
-Fabian Andres Diaz Solis, 13 years old
-Roberto Chaves Solis, 27 years old
-Julio Cesar Rojas Hidalgo, 30 years old
-Jose Roberto Vargas Vargas, 19 years old
-Rafael Herrera Esquivel, 47 years old
-Idania Aracely Perez Borges, age unknown
-Hania Flores Perez, 1 year old
-Jeffrey Zamora Cambronero, 14 years old
-Ana Maria Rodriguez Picado, 14 years old
-Leonor Garzon Flores, 58 years old, Nicaraguan
-Miguel Angel Arteta Montoya, 41 years old, Nicaraguan
-Marco Jimenez Roman, 16 years old
-Carlos Alberto Villegas, 18 years old

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Death toll in Costa Rica quake rises to 20

San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - The death toll from Costa Rica's magnitude-6.2 earthquake has risen to 20 after more bodies were found.

The country's judicial investigative agency says the death toll stands at 20 after three more bodies were found. Two were farm workers.

The quake rocked the Central American nation on Thursday, unleashing massive landslides and destroying homes in a mountainous, remote region popular with tourists and farmers. Fifteen of the victims have been identified.

President Oscar Arias visited a tent camp Tuesday that houses some of the estimated 2,000 victims whose homes were damaged or destroyed.

Tourists rescued from earthquake

Kay McLellan
Travel Trade Gazette

Tourists left stranded by last week’s earthquake in Costa Rica have been rescued by the country's authorities.

The 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit Costa Rica on January 8, with the epicentre at Poas Volcano, 40km from the capital San Jose.

Costa Rica's tourism minister, Carlos Benavides, said this was the only area seriously affected by the quake.

Five British tourists left unaccounted for have now been found safe. A group of American tourists stranded in the affected area have been rescued and taken by helicopter to San Jose for food and medical attention.

The Costa Rica Tourist Board is now working with airlines to return tourists home. It has created a Committee of Support for Tourists to provide assistance and advice to tourists affected by the quake.

The country's international and domestic airports are operating normally.

However, roads around Vara Blanca, San Pedro de Poas, Cinchona and San Miguel de Sarapiqui have been badly damaged and work has begun to repair them.

The rest of Costa Rica’s infrastructure remains unaffected.

For further information, contact the Committee of Support for Tourists on: +506 2299 5832 or +506 8379 8397.

Costa Rica searches for 21 missing after quake

San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - The death toll from Costa Rica's magnitude-6.1 earthquake rose to 19 dead, with 21 missing, officials said Monday.

The quake rocked the Central American nation on Thursday, unleashing massive landslides and destroying homes in a mountainous, remote region popular with tourists and farmers. Fifteen of the victims have been identified.

The death toll rose by one Monday as rescue officials suspended from a helicopter dug out the body of a man who was buried in his car on a steep incline.

Rescue efforts have been slow, and more than 100 people had been listed as missing over the weekend.

But judicial police said in a statement that authorities had located most of the missing in shelters. There were 21 people still unaccounted for. Most of the victims appeared to be Costa Rican or Nicaraguan.

President Oscar Arias declared five days of national mourning and issued a national emergency, making it easier for quake victims to receive aid.

His government also asked Congress to request a $65 million loan from the World Bank and a $850 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank.

Preliminary figures estimate nearly $100 million in damages.

Monday, January 12, 2009

International forces help rescue and recovery efforts

Colombian Air Force personnel carry the bodies of four people found yesterday amid the rubble in the town of Cinchona, Heredia, north of San Jose, one of the communities hardest hit by Thursday's earthquake that killed at least 19 people. Colombia and the United States loaned Costa Rica helicopters for evacuating survivors and transporting the dead from communities cut off by the 6.2-magnitude quake. (Photo: Ronald Reyes/Tico Times)

Costa Rica earthquake deaths seen around 40

San Jose, Costa Rica (Reuters) – The final death toll in Costa Rica from a strong earthquake last week will likely rise to around 40 after an emergency official on Monday scaled back the number of people missing.

Fourteen bodies have been found after Thursday's 6.2-magnitude quake caused landslides that buried cars and crushed homes and another 23 people remain unaccounted for, said National Emergency Commission head Daniel Gallardo.

"If there are (more) people missing, their families will advise us. It's unlikely that there are missing people that have still not been reported," Gallardo said.

Emergency services had earlier said there may have been as many as 50 people missing after the quake, which was centered in a tourist area north of the capital.

Shifting ground and the threat of additional landslides on the flanks of the Poas Volcano, where the earthquake caused the most damage, have menaced rescuers digging through rubble in search of survivors.

Authorities had visited shelters crammed with hundreds of Costa Ricans to narrow their list of missing people.

Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination because of its lush natural parks, volcanoes and rich wildlife, but it is prone to natural disasters like the rest of Central America.

(Reporting by John McPhaul)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Earthquake: authorities release the name of nine mortal victims

(Photo: AFP/Mayela Lopez)According to La Nacion newspaper the National Emergency Commission and the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) released the name of nine people that died on Thursday's 6.2-magnitude earthquake that, according to the latest official statement left 16 people dead.

Although that number is expected to climb as more bodies are found under landslides and the rubble of destroyed houses, the authorities have so far only released the names of the following victims since they were the first ones to be identified and their next of kin have already been notified:

-Ana Maria Rodriguez Picado
-Yitsi Tatiana Oliva Diaz
-Maricela Argüello Diaz
-Miguel Arteta Montoya
-Roberto Jara Jimenez
-Jeremy Alfaro Arias
-Roberto Chavez Solis
-Edwin Masis Villegas
-Fabian Andres Diaz Solis.

Costa Rica was hit by the magnitude 6.2 earthquake at 1:15 p.m. CST Thursday. The epicenter was located by the town of Vara Blanca by the La Paz Waterfall, about 10 km east of the Poas Volcano and 30 northwest of the capital, San Jose and occured 6 kilometers below the Earth's surface.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Belgian tourists fall 20 metres, survive quake

(AFP/File/Sam Yeh)San Jose (The Earth Times) - A Belgian family survived a 20-metre plunge after a viewing platform from where they were admiring a waterfall collapsed as a strong earthquake shook Costa Rica. Survivor Tina Soterr told Costa Rican daily La Nacion Friday that everything happened very fast at the La Paz waterfalls in the town of Cinchona.

She and her partner were enjoying the scenery with their two children, aged 4 and 9, when the structure collapsed. They survived and were treated for bruises and scratches.

The 6.2-magnitude quake on the Richter scale, rocked Costa Rica Thursday, killing at least 16 people and wounding more than 90 others, Red Cross officials said Friday.

Some of these deaths have not yet been confirmed because of the organization's inability to access certain areas.

Hundreds of tourists visit Vara Blanca and Cinchona every day. Residents of the area feared that two Canadians who were hiking when the quake took place may have been killed. At least 300 tourists, many of them foreigners, were cut off in Vara Blanca.

Tourists evacuated after fatal Costa Rica quake

(Reuters/Roger Benavides)Vara Blanca, Costa Rica (Reuters) – Rescue helicopters ferried stranded tourists on Friday from a picturesque volcanic area in Costa Rica where a strong earthquake killed around 14 people.

Two people were buried when Thursday's 6.2-magnitude quake triggered landslides near the La Paz waterfall at Vara Blanca, on the flanks of the Poas Volcano, officials said. A dozen people were killed in nearby areas.

"There are landslides on all the roads," said Guillermo Schwartz, a tourist from Guatemala. "The helicopters are trying to get people to the airport in San Jose."

Four children were killed but the Red Cross struggled to give an exact death count as rescue workers combed jungle paths for victims and emergency officials checked lists of names with tour operators.

"It was terrifying," said Spanish tourist Nazario Llinarez, 50, who described how he was at the waterfall with his wife when part of the hillside collapsed. The couple scrambled up a slope and spent the night huddled in a bus before being evacuated by helicopter.

Constant aftershocks complicated the rescue effort, and aerial photos showed collapsed buildings and huge swathes of reddish earth where chunks of hillside had fallen away.

"There could be between 10 and 18 people missing, but we hope they are wandering about in the mountains somewhere," said Victor Falla, an official for the National Emergency Commission at a base near the area. "Until we see the bodies we can't say how many dead there are."

He said there were small tremors every couple of minutes. "It's shaking right now," he told Reuters by cell phone.


Tourists and local residents suffered broken limbs and bruising when falling rock hit houses, cars and a hotel next to the thundering waterfall deep in the jungle.

It was not clear if the dead included foreign visitors, but the U.S. Embassy in San Jose said some 40 to 60 American tourists in the area, northwest of the capital San Jose, were unharmed.

The landslides devastated the Poas Volcano National Park and tore apart a road leading down to the La Paz waterfall, leaving about 300 trapped tourists and locals to spend a chilly night trapped in the valley at Vara Blanca.

Tour operators flew British, American, French and Dutch tourists back to San Jose and the government flew injured Costa Ricans to nearby hospitals.

Around 100 people safely left the area, Falla said, either by helicopter or by trekking up the mountainside to a road. The collapsed main road was beyond repair, he said.

Among the children reported dead on Thursday was a teenager crushed when her home collapsed in a landslide and two young girls selling candy on the slope of the Poas Volcano.

Trapped tourists lit bonfires overnight to keep warm. Landslides left buses tipped on their sides and several bridges in the area were destroyed.

"There are many buses and many vehicles that are trapped," deputy public safety minister Jose Torres said.

Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination due to its lush natural parks, volcanoes and rich wildlife, but is prone like the rest of Central America to natural disasters.

(Additional reporting by John McPhaul; Writing by Catherine Bremer, editing by Chris Wilson)

Quake death toll rises to 16, likely to climb even more

(AFP/Yuri Cortez)(Tico Times) - At least 16 people are dead, including three children, after a magnitude-6.2 earthquake rocked Costa Rica's populous Central Valley Thursday, triggering deadly landslides and causing widespread destruction.

Official counts of the dead and injured fluctuated wildly throughout the day. Late Friday afternoon, however, the CNE released a statement saying 16 people were confirmed dead:

-Two sisters ages 4 and 7 were buried by a landslide
-Six others were buried in a soda , or small restaurant
-Two were found dead near the La Paz waterfall
-Two died when a Pipasa chicken delivery truck they were riding in fell down a ravine
-Four died in the community of Fraijanes.

In addition, the following deaths were not included in Friday's press release: an elderly woman that died of a heart attack in San Jose and a 12-year-old girl that was killed in a landslide.

The epicenter of the earthquake – which struck at 1:19pm (CST) – was 10 kilometers east of Poas Volcano and 6 kilometers below the Earth's surface, according to the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI).

Over 40 communities affected: over 1,000 houses without electricity and over 38,000 people without water

(AFP/Yuri Cortez)At least 42 communities were hard hit during Thursday's 6.2 magnitude earthquake, but the greatest impact from the quake and its aftershocks – more than 1,000 in less than 24 hours – was felt in the towns of San Pedro de Poas, Vara Blanca and Cinchona.

Buildings were also damaged in San Jose and the city of Alajuela, where police evacuated offices as a precaution.

On Friday afternoon, 1,600 households were still without electricity, after the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) restored power to 11,700 homes. Power will not be restored to Cinchona for another three weeks because ICE may have to build new posts and cables, said ICE's Jesus Sanchez. Two cell phone towers near the quake's epicenter were still down Friday evening.

The quake's casualties also include the Cariblanco hydroelectric power plant at San Miguel de Sarapiqui in north-central Costa Rica. The plant is full of mud and branches and will be shut down for a year, said ICE president Pedro Pablo Quiros.

Another 38 rural aqueducts were also damaged, leaving 38,400 people without a regular water supply.

President Oscar Arias visited affected communities Friday morning, where he announced that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and Central American leaders had offered to send aid. The U.S. Embassy has donated the use of Black Hawk helicopters for rescue efforts, and $50,000 for humanitarian aid.

The earthquake was felt throughout Costa Rica , and is the biggest tremor to hit the Central Valley in years. Officials in neighboring Nicaragua said they also felt the tremor, though it did not cause damage or injuries there.

On Tuesday, a tremor measuring 4.0 originated in the same area as Thursday's quake, and was felt in San Jose but caused no damage.

Death toll rises to 15 after Costa Rica quake, dozens still missing

San Jose (AFP) — The official death toll after Costa Rica's strongest earthquake in decades rose to 15, with scores missing and injured, while some 150 stranded tourists were finally rescued.

Helicopters picked up some of the tourists, most from the United States, France, Canada and Spain, while others scrambled up mountain pathes to finally reach rescue workers from near the Poas volcano, the epicenter of Thursday's 6.1 magnitude quake.

At nightfall around 100 people were still stranded in the region around the capital San Jose, including around 50 in the area of Cinchona, one of the worst hit by the the temblor and accessible only by helicopter, according to the Red Cross.

Helicopters also evacuated a group of tourists trapped on a parking lot at a hotel near the La Paz waterfalls, a top tourist attraction.

Many on the ground said the official toll of 15 was likely to rise when rescue workers finally reached isolated villages and cars buried by mudslides.

Costa Rica's Central American neighbors, Colombia, the United States and China had offered aid to victims of the quake, President Oscar Arias said Friday after visiting the worst-hit zones.

"What I saw with my own eyes is that the consequences of the earthquake are worse than I had imagined," Arias said.

Rescue teams struggled in rain and mist Friday to reach hundreds stranded in mountainous central zones, as cracked roads, fallen trees and earth impeded their efforts in the farming region home to popular tourist sites.

The strongest quake to shake the country in the last 150 years was followed by several aftershocks and collapsed homes in and around the capital.

The first reported victims included two young sisters who had been selling sweets and died in a landslide near the epicenter. A 12-year-old girl was also crushed by a wall in her home near the Poas volcano.

The National Emergency Board declared a red alert in the metropolitan area of the central valley where 2.5 million of the country's four million people live, including San Jose, Cartago, Alajuela and Heredia.

The US army sent two Blackhawk helicopters, based in Honduras, to help with the operations. The government had contracted most private helicopters in the country, which has no army.

The quake hit at 1:21 pm (1921 GMT) Thursday, some 30 kilometers (20 miles) northwest of the capital, shaking water out of swimming pools.

It was felt across the country, a popular ecotourism and beach holiday destination, as well as in neighboring Nicaragua to the north.

Finally online again after a crazy week!

Oh boy what a week!

Sorry for the lack of recent posts and updates but this has been a pretty crazy week.

This year has literally started with a rumble here in Costa Rica because as you may have already heard and read somewhere else the whole country was rocked to its foundations when it was hit by the most powerful quake in 150 years.

Not only that, but I also had to deal with a crazy arrival to Costa Rica airport last Saturday, my computer crashed the following morning and the sister of a friend got mugged today.

Just coming back from vacation during the late hours of January 3, and after sorting my way out of a huge crowd at Juan Santamaria International airport, I managed to get home.

The problem with our main airport during this time of the year is, among many other things, that there not nearly enough official taxis to drive everyone out of the airport, so dozens of tired travellers rapidly gather outside and this creates pandemonium for those who don't have anyone waiting for them.

We had to give up and hire a private cab, which isn't always the wisest, safest or cheapest option, after seeing the sea of people waiting in line in front of us.

All this happens during this time of year because we are at the peak of the tourist season. Right now we get a lot of foreign visitors that are on their winter/holiday break in U.S.A and Canada, but because many Costa Ricans are also travelling in and out out of the country due to the vacations in all of the academic institutions and government offices.

The next day (Sunday January 4) as I'm getting ready to work on this blog my computer crashes due to overheating. Of course since it's Sunday night I have nowhere to take it so I have to wait until the following day to find a Toshiba authorized center to have it cleaned.

The problem with my laptop is that if I don't have it cleaned internally approximately once a year it will overheat and crash due to the high temperatures that it reaches when dust accumulates inside its ventilation system.

Not only is my laptop model prone to getting hot really fast, but when it hasn't been cleaned for a while it will overheat with tasks as simple as watching a youtube video. It then proceeds to automatically turn itself off to prevent any serious damage to its components.

On Tuesday I had some spare time so I took my laptop to a Toshiba center located in Multiplaza Mall in Escazu. They told me the laptop would be ready today and that they would charge me $30.

I agreed to leave my laptop there and they told me that they would call me when the job was completed. I always suffer when I have to spend a few days without my computer not only because of my profession, but also because a great deal of my communications take place online since I am an avid user of instant messenger applications and email.

So yesterday when the earthquake hit I freaked out not only because of the powerful tremor and the big scare, but also due to the fact that I was without my computer on such an important day. What was driving me crazy was that I had no absolutely no way to update my blog and my tweeter account to keep those outside Costa Rica informed with the latest developments.

Today by almost 10:30 a.m. I had received no call from the Toshiba center with information about my laptop so I decided to call them and ask them if they had it ready. Amazingly they told me that they had not even started work on my computer because their repair center was overwhelmed with service orders and that there was even one computer ahead of mine scheduled for cleaning.

I of course got really pissed and told them to have my computer ready because I would pick it up as soon as possible and I didn't want anyone as irresponsible as them working on my laptop.

Fortunately I was able to get in touch with another Toshiba authorized center where I had previously taken my laptop, but is farther away from my home, and they told me that they could have it ready today by 4 p.m.

I left my computer there at approximately 11:30 and surprisingly about two hours later they called me to tell me that my computer was ready. So today once I got home was able to finally start updating my blog.

As if all this was not enough, tonight, as I was eating dinner with a friend at a fast food restaurant we got a call from his sister. She told him that while caught in a traffic jam with her husband they had the windows of their car broken and a purse and the car radio stolen.

So even though this was a very eventful week I promise that I will try to post all the information I can about the earthquake and all the latest developments taking place in Tiquicia right now regarding this great tragedy. After that is done I will post the news of the past few days when I was outside Costa Rica.

Once again I am sorry for the lack of posts but as I have said previously this blog is a one-man effort so there's no one else that can update it while I'm gone or when I have no access to the Internet.

Pura vida from Costa Rica

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

NASA and Ad-Astra reach deal

NASA and Ad Astra Rocket Company have signed a Space Act Agreement that could lead to the testing of a new plasma-based space propulsion technology on the International Space Station. The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) engine was initially studied by NASA and is being commercially developed by Ad Astra — a Houston-based enterprise led by Costa Rican physicist and former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

1090 deaths make 2008 most violent year in a decade

(Inside Costa Rica) - Last year, 1.090 persons lost their lives in accidents and crimes making 2008 the most violent year in the last decade according to numbers released by the Costa Rican Red Cross.

The statistical report released a few hours after the beginning of the year indicates that there were 124 more violent deaths in 2008 over 2007 and an increase of 392 over 2002.

Johana Sanchez of the telecommunications office of the Cruz Roja added that August and December are the most critical months where more than three violent deaths are recorded daily.

Sanchez added that aquatic and traffic accidents claimed the majority of lives.

The report indicates that a total of 517 people lost their lives on the nation's roads from collisions and being run over by vehicles. However, the actual number of deaths is higher as the number only indicates those who died at the scene and not on the way to or later in hospital.

Miguel Carmona, president of the Costa Rican Red Cross, is urging everyone to be more responsible for their actions and well being.

The Costa Rican Red Cross report indicates that San Jose and Limon are the most dangerous provinces of the country with 150 and 49 murders, respectively. In contrast, the province of Cartago only registered three murders in all of 2008.

The statistics reveal that more men (941) than women (149) lost their lives violently.

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