Friday, January 09, 2009

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.

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