Monday, January 12, 2009

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)

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