Costa Rica Confronts Large and Costly Cleanup Effort*
By Mike McDonald
Costa Rica is beginning to tally up the cost of damage as well as donations of cash and other assistance as the country begins to deal with the aftermath of last week’s deadly downpours, which claimed at least 27 lives. Early estimates from Costa Rica’s Executive Branch indicate that the storms, which forced flooding and landslides across the country, have already cost the country ?840 million ($1.6 million) in immediate response efforts to the disaster.
According to a report released on Monday by Costa Rica’s vice president, Luis Liberman, the country has spent ?300 million ($590,000) in the distribution of supplies such as food, water and medical goods and ?400 ($785,000) in rent for heavy machinery to clear debris from roads.
Costa Rica’s National Emergency Commission (CNE) has distributed ?100 million ($196,000) to local governments in areas most affected by the disaster. The government calculates that money transfers and fees have cost ?40 million (78,500) so far. The government has not yet estimated a total cost for cleanup and repairs after last week’s weather destroyed homes and collapsed bridges and highways, but announced that it has created a ?4 billion (roughly $7.7 million) fund that will be used to build or repair houses for storm victims.
On Monday, the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) pledged a total of $60,000 to Costa Rica between the two bureaus. This money will be used to buy blankets, small electric generators and fuel for search and rescue helicopters. Costa Rica’s National Emergency Commission (CNE) also confirmed a $300,000 donation from the Moroccan government, which will be used to support rescue missions and transport supplies to isolated communities and evacuation shelters across the country.
Press officials at CNE said that Costa Rica is negotiating with the Inter-American Development bank to secure a loan to help the country repair damages caused by the storms. Costa Rica’s Red Cross has been accepting donations since last week, and said it will release numbers regarding the value of donations on Tuesday.
So far, airplanes and helicopters from the Colombian, Panamanian and Guatemalan armed forces have transported 124,695 pounds of food and 3,000 liters of water to communities across the country since the teams arrived in Costa Rica last Friday.
As of Monday evening, 3,709 evacuees remained in 64 temporary shelters nationwide. In Escazú, where a landslide at the Pico Blanco claimed at least 23 lives, psychologists from the Public Health Ministry have been meeting with families who lost loved ones.
Costa Rica’s Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) said on Monday that it has rehabilitated 85 percent of the 123 roads that were closed last week, including the Costanera highway, an important coastal route in the country’s southern zone. The road between Quepos and Manuel Antonio, a popular beach area on the central Pacific coast, remains closed due to a collapsed road. MOPT announce on Monday that the agency is working to install a temporary bridge that would allow passage over the damaged stretch of road. MOPT estimates that 16 bridges have collapsed, and said Monday that the southern portion of the Inter-American highway, which reopened on Sunday, closed again on Monday because of a landslide between Buenos Aires and Paso Real in Southern Costa Rica. MOPT expects to complete an inventory of the total cost of damage to infrastructure and a timeline for repairs by Thursday. For the latest official updates on road conditions: http://www.transito.go.cr/estadorutas/index.html
On Monday, Costa Rica’s Water and Sewer Institute (AyA) reported that more than 95,000 people remain without access to clean drinking water after landslides and downpours collapsed pipes and water treatment and distribution systems last week. The institute is circulating 11 water cistern trucks in Santa Ana, east of San José and in Acosta, Alajuelita and Aserrí, towns in the mountains south of San José.
The Costa Rican Electricity Institute reported that 281 clients remained without electricity on Monday, mainly in Parrita and Quepos on the central Pacific coast and in nearby San Isidro del General, further inland. Last week, more than 2,400 ICE customers lost power. Outages were caused mainly by fallen power lines and flooded generator equipment.
Costa Rica’s Central Valley and Pacific slope remain on red alert, the highest of the country’s three alert levels.