Region, COVID-19

Eta Hits Guanacaste: Two months worth of rain fell in three days

Esta publicación también está disponible en: Español
Translator: Arianna Hernández

On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 4, the National Emergency Commission (CNE- Comisión Nacional de Emergencias) upgraded the cantons of Nicoya, Hojancha and Nandayure to red alert, taking into account ground soil saturation due to the recent rains and the “very heavy rains” forecasted by the National Meteorological Institute (IMN- Instituto Meteorológico Nacional).

Eta has already caused severe damage in Guanacaste, since twice as much rain fell in just three days as in a normal month of November, according to IMN estimates.

While the province records an average of 100 millimeters (3.9 inches) of rain in the month of November, during the last three days, up to 220 mm (8.7 inches) were recorded in areas like Hojancha and Liberia. This means that in three days, 220 liters (58 gallons) of water fell for every square meter.

The incessant rains have caused fallen branches and landslides, have cut off communities such as Nosara in the canton of Nicoya and Bebedero in Cañas, and have made it urgent for the municipal emergency committees (CME) to open shelters.

The local government in Cañas also opened a shelter for people under isolation orders due to COVID-19 in the community of Bebedero.

Days of Flooding

In most cantons, the rains began on Monday and have persisted intermittently. In Nicoya, they caused damage in the coastal areas especially, with landslides along Route 150, which connects Nicoya with Samara, and with the collapse of the bridge in San Fernando, in the district of Samara.

It puts us in a rather critical situation, especially because it is the main route to go to Nosara, and it also leaves places in Samara in a situation of isolation,” said the mayor of Nicoya, Carlos Armando Martinez.

The damage in the Nosara community, which historically has been impacted by heavy rains, exceeded what local authorities anticipated. “What we had to do was enable the Zaragoza route, which had landslides, but we were able to enter with municipal machinery,” added Martinez.

It’s not surprising, when we consider that at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3, IMN reported that the canton of Hojancha had recorded the highest amount of accumulated rainfall in the North Pacific with 278 mm (almost 11 inches). The source of the river basin that flows into Nosara is in the Monte Alto Forest Reserve, located in the canton of Hojancha.

The Tucurrique neighborhood in Santa Cruz during the night of Tuesday, November 3. Photo: Manuel Avendaño.

The mayor of Hojancha, Eduardo Pineda, specified that the routes that connect that canton with Nicoya, Nandayure and the district of Puerto Carrillo had landslides and buckled bridges. “We have a lot of road damage,” he emphasized.

The residents of Bebedero in Cañas have also been isolated since Tuesday when the only road into their town turned into a lagoon.

We couldn’t see the road anymore because this water has a lot of sediment and mud in it,” explained the mayor of Cañas, Luis Fernando Mendoza.

“There are parts where the water reaches up to a meter and a half (5 feet) above the street, so a vehicle can’t drive through it.”

The local governments of Bagaces and Cañas set up educational centers in the sister communities of Bebedero, in both cantons, to shelter affected families. On the Bagaces side, 74 people are sheltered and in Cañas, there are 250.

However, according to Mendoza, since it is impossible to get to the community to bring them food, they transferred all of the families to a shelter in the center of Cañas by means of a gravel road owned by the Taboga sugar company.

“From Bebedero to Taboga, we transported them on Camecos (a type of tractor), and from puerto cinco (a sector of Taboga) to Cañas, they transfer and travel by buses,” he related.

The local government of La Cruz also opened the Cuajiniquil high school for 72 affected people from that community and from Tempatal.

 “We are blessed that the high school has infrastructure that meets all the conditions, a gym, classrooms, a good cafeteria,” said Mayor Alonso Alan. “We transferred the residents of Tempatal here to focus operations on a single shelter.”

Temporary Shelters

Nine of the 11 cantons of Guanacaste set up places to shelter families impacted by the rains and floods. The only two cantons that do not report having shelters are Abangares and Tilaran, according to Tilaran’s mayor, Juan Pabo Barquero, and the vice mayor of Abangares, Jovita Cabezas.

The situation is different in other communities. “I think there are going to be many families affected after the assistance,” said the mayor of Nicoya, Carlos Armando Martinez. “Right now, what we are doing is primary assistance, but hopefully later other social welfare organizations and others can support many families who have lost everything.”

The Municipal Emergency Committee of La Cruz houses 72 people from Cuajiniquil and Tempatal at the Cuajiniquil high school. Photo: Municipality of La Cruz.

The Liberia emergency committee is already requesting clothing donations for affected families, which can be dropped off at the mayor’s office.

In the canton, they currently have 13 people sheltered (eight adults and five children) from the communities of El Gallo, Las Brisas and Pueblo Nuevo.

We have practically all the districts of the canton affected with flood problems. There have also been interruptions in the supply of drinking water and failures in the electrical system,” affirmed CME official Renan Zamora.

On Alert Until Friday

Eta was a category 4 hurricane 24 hours ago, but now it is a tropical storm and continues to weaken, according to IMN’s director, Werner Stolz, in a press conference on Wednesday.

However, IMN predicts very heavy rains for Wednesday night and early Thursday. Stolz also specified that intermittent rains will continue through Friday in the North Pacific.

The cantons in the peninsula, Nicoya, Nandayure and Hojancha, are on red alert. The rest of the province remains on orange alert.

Shelters

The following shelters have been set up in the cantons of the province, each one with the number of people being assisted in parentheses:

Nicoya: 

    • Nosara (150)
    • San Fernando (5)
    • Cuesta Grande (25)
    • La Virginia de Gamalotal (8)

Liberia: 

    • Barrio Nazareth (13 personas)

Santa Cruz: 

    • Ortega (37)
    • Bolsón (17)
    • Santa Cruz high school (1)

Carrillo: 

    • La Guinea (80)
    • Corralillo (200)

Cañas: 

    • 5 schools in the center (300)

Bagaces:

    • Bebedero community hall (74)
    • Aguas Calientes (15)

La Cruz: 

    • Cuajiniquil high school (72) 

Hojancha:

    • Estrada elementary school (20)

Nandayure:

    • Carmen Zapotal elementary school (12) 
    • Moravia Bejuco elementary school (12) 
    • San Fracisco de Coyote (1)

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