By: Marisol Arias Photo courtesy: Casa Presidencial
- 11 people killed and thousands affected
- Red alert declared in Guanacaste and in 90% of the country
- 178 shelters were opened to receive more than 11,500 people
- Damaged streets and bridges isolated dozens of people
The news was not encouraging: the rain did not stop and rivers overflowed. In Guanacaste, a month´s worth of rain fell in a few hours.
The National Meteorological Institute (IMN) had announced that the country would be affected by a tropical storm that threatened to become a hurricane. The first alert declared by emergency authorities was a yellow one that became red in a few hours.
And it only got worse as the rainfall intensified throughout the country. In Guanacaste, the areas of Carrillo (Playas del Coco, Sardinal and Filadelfia) had been cut off. In Santa Cruz, the situation was critical in Ortega and Bolsón, areas historically vulnerable to floods. The center and coastal areas of Santa Cruz (Veintisiete de Abril and Playa Potrero) were also poorly affected.
As hours passed, the tension in the communities grew along with the increasing force of nature, and the news spread by the media and social networks generated confusion and despair.
The weather forecast warned that the damage from Nate, as the storm was called, might worsen, so local emergency committees ordered the evacuation of high-risk areas such as Filadelfia and Sardinal.
For many people, the hours were endless. The Red Cross, the Public Police Force and many volunteers mobilized people to secure sites that acted as shelters.
Electrical wires and drinking water supplies were hit by falling trees and landslides, which cut power lines and damaged pipes as well as causing pumping to stop in the aqueducts.
Storm Nate punished Guanacaste and the rest of the country.
Vice President of the Republic, Ana Helena Chacón said that Nate was one of the worst natural disasters that has ever affected the country in recent decades, even with more serious consequences than those caused by the action of Hurricane Otto a year ago, in November 2016.
Nate left a trail of death as it passed through Costa Rica: 11 people lost their lives and thousands, their homes.
When the first impact of Nate took pace place on October 5, there were 7,177 people housed in about 98 shelters. Between Friday the 6th and Saturday the 7th, the figure increased to more than 11,500 people sheltered in 178 care centers.
The Municipal Committees of Emergencies, diverse aid teams, the Fire Department and the Costa Rican Red Cross carried out rescue operations, especially in isolated areas, where up until that moment, their access had not been possible due to landslides and floods. In the latter cases, people at these sites were assisted by air.
During those days, the Costa Rican Red Cross made 122 effective rescues in Guanacaste, which saved the lives of 603 people. This task was carried out by 55 members of this life-saving institution. In the area, 65 shelters were able to house 4,602 people.
As part of the efforts to meet the needs of the affected population, the National Emergency Commission (CNE) distributed 122 tons of food per day.
For its part, the Public Police Force allocated 276 policemen for rescue and delivery of supplies and food for the affected families. 227 batches of food were distributed in La Cruz, Santa Elena and Peñas Blancas. 129 Fire Brigade officials supported these works in Cañas, Bagaces, Filadelfia, La Cruz, Santa Cruz and Abangares
Coopeguanacaste re-established all electrical service thanks to 140 company employees who worked in different parts of the area to handle more than 400 problems, repairing lines and electrical components in places where there was no access. According to the cooperative in a report to THE Tamarindo News, most of the damages were due to trees falling on the lines, because of the instability of water-saturated soil. There were many fallen trees in Tamarindo, such as a large Guanacaste that fell near the El Colono hardware store, and several others that fell on the access roads to Tamarindo, preventing their use for several hours.
During the emergency and days later, 249 schools and colleges were closed and another 13 did not provide lessons because they were serving as community shelters. The latter were in Cañas, Santa Cruz and Buenos Aires.
The electricity company said they received more than 10,000 calls to report faults. The number of damages attended to in four days exceeded those that are normally attended to in a month’s time.
Aqueducts and Sewers (AyA) sent 12 water tanks to meet the needs of the communities of Sardinal, El Coco, La Cruz, Peñas Blancas, El Jobo, Tempatal, Santa Ana de Filadelfia, Cañas (Colorado and Raizal), Tilarán and Libano.
Accounting for damages and care resources
The Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT) estimated an investment higher than ₡ 248 million for work to be done on Guanacaste highways to repair them from Nate’s damage.
The National Emergency Commission (CNE) setup 151 projects to be completed immediately in order to face the effects generated by the rains during Tropical Storm Nate.
In total, these projects exceed an investment of ₡ 1,159 million.
The distribution of resources by provinces was established as follows: 10 projects in Alajuela, for ₡ 29 million; 32 in Cartago for ₡ 138.8 million; 13 in Guanacaste, for ₡ 41.2 million; 25 in Puntarenas for ₡ 73.3 million and 106 projects in San José for ₡ 877.060 million.
According to the CNE, the first efforts will concentrate mainly on the cleaning of streets, the construction of protection on the river banks, the stacking of material, the rehabilitation of roads and the provision of bridges or fords, the cleaning of landslides that close communities off and the stabilization of slopes.
International assistance arrived
As part of the emergency response and in solidarity with the situation in Costa Rica, emergency brigades and a Panama team with an aircraft offered their help in rescue efforts.
The Inter-American Development Bank also provided US$ 200,000 for emergency care. These resources were used for humanitarian assistance for the restoration of the displaced and affected populations.
This is a non-reimbursable technical cooperation agreement to finance relief actions in a national emergency.
The donation recognizes immediate expenses for temporary accommodation, medicines, fresh water, and primary needs services. It also provides support in the provision of assistance and transportation of such elements to the affected areas and populations.
In accordance with the Technical Cooperation Agreement Letter, activities must be carried out within six months. For its part, the CNE must submit a technical report to the IDB within 60 days of the last disbursement of the contribution, detailing the expenses incurred, an inventory of assets, equipment and assets acquired and their final destination.
As stated in the Emergency Declaration, Tropical Storm Nate in Costa Rica caused, in just two days, floods and landslides, damage and loss of property, public works and production. It has strongly affected the environment of the territory, as well as people and animals.