Powerful 7.6 Costa Rica earthquake

A powerful magnitude-7.6 earthquake shook Costa Rica and neighboring countries on Wednesday, sending panicked people into the streets and briefly triggering a tsunami alert, but causing little damage. Authorities reported one confirmed death.
A wall at the University of Costa Rica’s school of electrical engineering is damaged after an earthquake in San Jose, Costa Rica, on Wednesday.
“When we felt the earthquake, we held onto each other because we kept falling” – said Rosa Pichardo, 45, who was walking on the beach in the town of Samara with her family when the quake hit.
“I’ve never felt anything like this. We just couldn’t stay standing. My feet gave out under me. It was terrible, terrible” – she said.
Officials said the quake collapsed some houses and at least one bridge and caused landslides that blocked highways. But Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla said there were no reports of major damage and called for calm.

Powerful 7.6 Costa Rica earthquake
Costa Rica earthquake.

At the epicentre, the beach town of Cangrejal, Jairo Zuniga (27) said everything in his house fell when the quake hit at 8:42 am.
“It was incredibly strong. I’ve felt earthquakes, but this one was ‘wow’” – he said.
The US Geological Survey said the quake was centered about 38 miles (60 kilometres) from the town of Liberia and 87 miles (140 kilometres) west of the capital, San Jose, where frightened people ran into the streets.
The magnitude initially was estimated at 7.9, but was quickly downgraded. Local residents said it shook for about 30 seconds and was felt as far away as neighbouring Panama and Nicaragua, where school was canceled in some areas.
Officials initially warned of a possible tsunami, and local police supervisor Jose Angel Gomez said about 5,000 people (80 per cent of the population) had been evacuated from coastal towns in the Samara district west of the quake’s epicentre. But by mid-day they were allowed to return.
Panama also briefly called for people to evacuate beach areas.
In Costa Rica, one man died of a heart attack caused by fright, said Carlos Miranda, a Red Cross worker in the city of Liberia.


Later (after emergency services had delivered initial findings on the impact of the earthquake) President Laura Chinchilla said that no one had died as a result of it.
“There weren’t any lives lost or serious physical injuries as a result of the events this morning” – she told a news conference in San Jose.
When asked about the heart attack victim, Ms Chinchilla said she did not believe the quake had caused the death.
Countries like Mexico, Colombia and Panama had offered Costa Rica assistance, but that didn’t seem necessary because the extent of the damage appeared contained, Chinchilla added.
The epicentre of the quake was in the north-western province of Guanacaste, and split open tarmac roads, cracked gravestones and sent books tumbling off library shelves.
Costa Rican television said 22 people were treated for injuries, but the Red Cross could not confirm this.
Locals were shocked by the force of the earthquake, which was felt as far away as Nicaragua and Panama, and the biggest to hit Costa Rica since a 7.6 magnitude quake in 1991 left 47 dead.
“I was inside my car at a stop sign and all of a sudden everything started shaking. I thought the street was going to break in two” – said Erich Johanning, a 30-year-old who works in Internet marketing in San Jose. “Immediately, I saw dozens of people running out of their homes and office buildings.”

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