“Never say never,” urged Silvia Mejia Zamora in tears during a community meeting in Samara on Wednesday, March 9th. She explained that she was one of those people who thought that a disaster like an earthquake would never really happen. She was just going about her normal business doing laundry. Her husband had gone to work and her children were playing when the 6.2 earthquake hit with an epicenter 4 kilometers southeast of Cinchona. Her cousin and his children died in the earthquake. “Losing a loved one hurts a lot and seeing your house, your town destroyed hurts a lot,” she said.
Silvia was one of five guests who came to share experiences with the Samara community in a meeting organized by VON and the Municipal and National Committees of Emergencies to better prepare for possible emergencies like earthquakes.
The warning seems even more appropriate as just two days later Samara and other coastal towns were warned of possible tsunami effects after the 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan, one of the strongest earthquakes on record
Important Information About Tsunamis
At the beginning of the meeting, information about tsunamis was shared by Shusuke Irabu, a specialist in disaster prevention from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) who has been working with the Nicoya CME and CNE. “(if) we have more knowledge, so we have more chance to be prepared,” he commented.
Do to a lack of knowledge, tourists went out to the beach during the 2004 Indonesia tsunmai disaster and died tragically. In the case of a tsunami, he said, the only way to save yourself is to get to a high place. Irabu showed the audience a photo to illustrate an important warning sign of an approaching tsunami: all the water near the beach appears white.
He said that earthquakes with at least 6.0 magnitude can generate tsunamis under the ocean. If a strong earthquake were to take place near the coast of Costa Rica, he estimated that the waves might reach shore within 5-10 minutes, but said it is best to evacuate to higher ground on foot to avoid car accidents that might happen if many people at once try to leave in cars.
Cinchona Experience Shows the Importance of Organization
The earthquake in Cinchona affected a population of 125,584 people, leaving 23 dead, 7 missing, 100 injured, 2387 homes damaged, 781 homes completely destroyed and causing millions and millions of dollars in damages and economic losses. While reviewing the impact, Agustin Jimenez Araya, facilitator for the United Nations Program for Development (PNUD) made the point that the disaster was worse because of lack of control of construction permits and inspections and because people in the communities don’t know who to coordinate with.
On the other hand, a positive example was cited by Jose Fabio Madriz Castro, in charge of police preventive programs for the Public Fforce. He said the community of El Roble, located about 10 kilometers from Los Cartagos, was so well organized and prepared, that within 45 minutes they were ready to receive the earthquake victims.
Local Committee Named to Prepare Samara
The new Samara Emergency Committee members are:
Luis Humberto Acosta Fajardo, coordinator
Leda Maria Espinoza Mataritta, subcoordinator;
Eduardo Arnez Montes, secretary
Bonifacio Diaz Zuñiga, fiscal
Vocals :Francisco Valencia Carillo and Andy Ruiz Lopez. Elias Mora Villalobos agreed to work on shelters,Jose Feliz Acosta Lopez on volunteers and Daniela Retana Medrano on Information Management.
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