1+ Week After the Earthquake: We’re Not Ok!

Posted by on Sep 15, 2012 | Comments

It took seconds for CNN to spread the word about the life-altering event that took place here in Costa Rica. An earthquake of 7.6-Richter-scale magnitude shook the country and its neighbors (Nicaragua & Panama) Wednesday, September 5th, at exactly 8:45 in the morning, sending panicked people into the streets, unpaved roads or their backyard.

High School students that were evacuated from the building during the earthquake. Photo courtesy of AFP/GettyImages.

As a Peace Corps volunteer I live in a rural community miles from the epicenter which news reported was Cangrejal of Nicoya. The Guanacaste area is a seismically active zone where the Cocos tectonic plate dives beneath the Caribbean plate.  Words cannot express how I felt after this event and how it has affected many lives in this country.

I didn’t panic, but I was scared because I thought I was going to die during the 30 seconds the earth moved and I was glad I was at home and not anywhere else that morning!

Artisans were highly affected by the earthquake. Months of hardwork turned into pieces. Photo taken from Aldia.cr

This past Wednesday, September 12th, marked exactly 1 week after the earthquake and you may ask yourself, how is Costa Rica doing? Have there been any deaths? How are the people coping with the emotional effects of this event? Have they received any aid?

The answers? I don’t have them all. But, for sure  I can attest to the fact that we are not Ok.  The quake was followed by 1,600 aftershocks of magnitudes that ranged between 2.3 and 5.2 to this day.  At least 1,054 houses and 170 schools have been affected by the earthquake.  35 of those schools have to be completely reconstructed. Two deaths were reported as an indirect result of the event (heart attack, for example).  The aftershocks are being felt in different parts of the country, depending where the epicenter of these shocks known as replicas in Spanish originate.

Guaitil Elementary School, Classroom where 1-3rd graders receive classes. Kindergarden is located next door.

It took me two days to feel completely safe to leave the house to go about my crazy work schedule (meetings, school visits, cafecitos, bike trips, etc).   I told Peace Corps I was fine because I thought I was until this past Wednesday.

I was watching T.V. in my room that night, and all of the sudden I felt the bed move slightly but didn’t pay attention.  Then, I heard the roof move and noticed the T.V. was shaking. I got up as quickly as possible to exit the house and then realized my heart was beating super fast and I was crying. I was so scared! But, that wasn’t the worse part. After it happened, I realized I was the only one crying. Some of the people that were outside looked fine, just a little surprised.

I took a deep breath and gave myself some time to calm down. I was given some tea.  After that night is when I realized I was not Ok.  The Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI-UNA) reported that at 20:14 p.m., an aftershock of 4.1 magnitude took place 6 kilometers southwest of Tamarindo – a beach site. No wonder I felt it hard! This is the closest beach I have to my site.

Map that shows the location of the aftershock that scared the crap out of me.                                        Source: http://www.ovsicori.una.ac.cr/

Yesterday I realized I was not the only one affected. When I was at the elementary school working with the Director, she suddenly stands up crying out ‘Earthquake Eli, Earthquake” and left the classroom.  This was because the handyman was fixing the lunch room’s door and it made a loud noise.  I was shock to realize how affected she was and talked to her to calm her down for the sake of the schoolchildren.

To this day, news have reported that the families affected by the earthquake haven’t received any aid and the government communicated it will take another week for the aid to arrive and be used to fix the damages and rebuild homes. Many families are sleeping in their community’s salon comnunal (community space used for events), with limited access to water and electricity or food. They ask themselves, “What are we going to do now? Many people may develop PTSD as a result of this event and I hope we can deal with it.

Why has the government taken so long to help those affected? No one has an answer. But, I think the government’s attitude has been very apathetic and slow.  A better approach for action is needed immediately.

Email me if you’d like to help my community recover at [email protected]


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