Thursday, 4 November 2010

A state of emergency declared.....

Costa  Rica has had a month of heavy, persistent rain. Major roads have been closed as the foundations of bridges have been washed away. Rivers have overspilled their banks, flooding houses and forcing people to go to shelters. The vital Pan American highway, carrying traffic from Panama to Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El  Salvador  has been cut several times.

But now, this morning, dreadful news. Tropical storm Thomas combined with a low pressure area over the Caribbean sent driving, torrential rain over the country in the night and this was the straw that broke the camel's least it was in the village of San Antonio de Escazu in the hills above the capital, San Jose.

A massive landslide started, taking with it ten houses.

So far eight bodies have been found, while about thirty people are reported as missing.

The emergency services...the police and fire brigade, the Red Cross... are at full stretch all over the country where communities have been cut off and no assessment of their situation has been possible.

Access is hampered by the state of the roads...washed out in parts, dangerous in others, so what the country needs is helicopters to get help to those who need it.

But the country doesn't have any.

Not public ones, that is, for emergency use.

It has to rely on the civic sense of the institutional bodies like the electricity board and the generosity of private owners.

It has to call upon neighbouring countries.

A fortnight ago, the President, Laura Chinchilla, toured affected helicopter.

I hope it's being put to better use today.


  1. I remember the first time I was in a country that didn't have the kind of public services and equipment I took totally for granted. It was a huge shock.

  2. Pueblo girl, yes, it is. The worst of it is that over the years Costa Rica has had huge grants made to upgrade infrastructure...and the money has just evaporated...
    Now its worse..the Eu is making grants and, in typical EU fashion, the money gets spent on the prelimary 'study' leaving nothing for the project.

  3. Sorry to hear of this, Fly...

    As Costa Rica has no Army, they probably did not see the immediate need of helicopters. I'm sure Panama and Colombia have them and would come to aid, if asked.

    Dreadful for those effected.

    As for money evaporating, that unfortunately happens far too often. Let us know what happens.

  4. Found you. Looking forward to this blog too.

  5. e....well, with the number of landslips every year you'd think they would have provided the national emergency commission with at least a couple!

    Mark, glad to see you here.

  6. Hi Fly, I finally made it here, only to find a big mudslide in progress with more rain coming... oh my, what a welcome mother nature had kept in store for you !!! Liked your account of going through CDG Airport... it is a hell-hole if there ever was one, totally agree. And sorry to hear about your poor transit time in the US. Yours is not the first bad account I've heard. We live in strange and troubling times. Be safe...

  7. Owen, we gave up transiting through the U.S. and traveled via Madrid on Mexicana...nice planes, nice staff and no hassles anywhere!
    Then they went bust!
    CDG is plain disgusting....going Mexicana we left from Orly which was much less stressful and distinctly cleaner!

    Costa Rica has two days of national mourning for the dead ...and a lot of rescue work still to do.
    Parrita on the Pacific coast looks as if it will have to be evacuated....and just how everything is to be transported given the state of the roads I do not know.
    Banks in town full of people giving donations and the Red Cross ambulance station full of people giving food and clothing parcels.

  8. Heavens, Fly, thank goodness you and Mr Fly are OK. Is it my imagination or is Mother Nature getting very angry all over the world? Hope it all settles down quickly.

    So looking forward to reading all about your life in Costa Rica.

    And one more thing. Is the President's name really Laura Chinchilla? Sounds more like a female impersonator or high-class whore. :)

  9. the proverbial bad pennies, we're fine.

    Yes, that is indeed her took me a bit aback too....

  10. Well, from Sarkozy to Chinchilla, a step or two up in the world...

  11. Wow, sorry to hear about this. Especially that people lost their lives.

    I did hear that Costa Rica was getting hit by storms, but not much here in the States talking about it. Hope it is resolved soon.

  12. Fly, I think I should have hopped the train a decade ago...much harder now with wheels, docs, PT, etc.

    I'm hoping the situation in your new home doesn't get worse. Good to know people are pulling together.

  13. e...don't I know it.
    Mr. Fly is determined to do as much as he can while he can...forseeing the day when he can't...all our joint best wishes heading your way.

    People certainly good waiting for government.
    While the rescue services are killing themselves trying to help, the administration paces through its self imposed quadrilles....though there will be more than public outcry if the same thing happens as happened last year when a landslip killed over twenty people...and the families are still waiting replacement permanent housing.

  14. Puts some things into perspective - here's me stressing about my new house move and lack of internet... I lived near Aberfan for a while where there was a terrible landslide disaster in the sixties that covered the local school - it still haunts that village

  15. Mark, I remember when that happened.

    Things are pulling round here...water and electricity have been restored to most areas and the major roads are being opened again....but people are still not able to return home in many cases and the donations of food and clothing are still pouring into local Red Cross stations to tide them over this difficult time.
    Infrastructure repair will cost a fortune that the government just does not have....and this year and next will be difficult ones for the country.

    Thanks to the heavy rains of October the coffee berries were falling from the bushes and rotting.....the masses of pickers who come in from Panama and Nicaragua to earn their families' income for the year have been sent home...the vegetable crops are rotting in the ground and all this after the main vegetable producing area was affected by volcano Turrialba letting off sulphur fumes so intense as to have had the surrounding agricutural district made unfit for use.

  16. And the nutjobs here who proclaim there is no such thing as climate change...

    What you are describing is devastating for not only individuals but the whole region...

    Glad you and the Mr. are well in the midst of all this, Fly.

  17. is a catastrophy....and invisible on the global scale

  18. Just checking that you're okay...

  19. Fly, so glad you're both OK. Your account does put everything into perspective and I'm going to try very hard to be a regular reader of your blog.

    I had a panic attack this morning about my blogging skills, the state of this office, the filing, our financial affairs but reading this makes me just belt up quickly. We'll get through this and I hope all the Costa Ricans do too.

    I've been to Costa Rica once and really, really enjoyed myself. In fact I'm wearing a ring which I bought from there and treasure.

    I also listened to a programme talking about how banana pickers are exploited. This is much in this world which makes me despair and rejoice in equal measure.

    I'm bumbling on! (Could not leave comment on your latest post as the comments had disappeared.)

  20. Hadriana's Treasures, well, we feel much more relaxed here than there!
    The good people pull together...the bad side, how government can't seem to cope.

    And now, of course there is this blasted Rio San Juan nonsense to camouflage what is not being done.

    As an example, between us and the coast a bailey bridge has been washed away.
    It replaced an old bridge which fell into the river complete with bus and passengers last year...five dead.
    The government are building a foot bridge...but this is no use to the 100 odd people who work in a theme park the other side of the river and they fear, rightly, that once the foot bridge is in place that is all there will be for the foreseeable future, while they lose their jobs.