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Tropical Storm Thomas
Damages Due to Rains Add Up and Increase Each Year

By Emiliana Garcia

Adriana Sequeira and Jonathan Baltodano are among the 246 families that were affected by the last swell of the Río Nosara. On the evening of Friday, November 5th, the river forced them to take all their furniture out of their home. They had to spend the night out in the open, in their neighbor’s small ranchito.

Early Saturday morning, the toughest task awaited them: cleaning the mud, which came with stones, sticks and trash, from their home and furniture. The river left the mud as a souvenir, after leaving as quickly as it had come. “It came in and went through our house like nothing,” Sequeira said. “In May it had also come in, but not with such force.” Sequeira has lived in this house for only nine months.

The Rio Nosara swells are not new, repeating themselves year after year. During the summer of 2007, the CNE invested 140 million colones in a river dredging project and a retaining wall or dam. However, both the dredging project and the retaining wall were done without considering the river’s natural course. In October, 2008, a swell destroyed the newly built dam, forcing 56 families to relocate for several days to the Serapio López Fajardo School shelter.

The Sta. Marta cross, close to the Nosara river,
had almost 2 mts of water


During a visit to the area in October, 2008, the CNE’s President, Miguel Gallardo, promised a new dredging project and a retaining wall for the Rio Nosara. At the time, he assured the community that the river’s natural course would be respected. “From a human perspective, the current situation is extremely costly,” he stated in an interview with the VON on October 20th, 2008.

By the end of 2009, after a year of waiting, a group of Nosara residents filed an appeal before the Sala IV, requesting the intervention of the CNE in building the retaining wall promised by Gallardo. In May, 2010, the members of the Sala IV agreed with the area’s residents, ordering the CNE to build the previously promised retaining wall. The topographical work and the hydraulic studies done by the Senara and paid for by the CNE are now ready, but it is still uncertain when the dredging project will begin.

The River Bed
The Río Nosara is born in Hojancha’s mountains and extends for 50 kilometers. Along its path it goes through several communities before reaching Nosara. One of these towns is Belen, Nicoya which, according to Christophe Husbamn, Nosara town Water Board President, “is also located on the banks of the river but does not get flooded because the river flows properly”. However, in Nosara, the river flattens out and, thanks to the high tides from the Pacific Ocean, “Water is unable to get out (into the ocean),” explains Husbamn. This phenomenon explains why Nosara is the only community affected by the river swells, causing the constant flooding.

On Wednesday, November 3rd and Friday, November 5th, the community endured the heavy rains caused by tropical storm Thomas, which caused 48 people to be relocated to a shelter at the Serapio López School. Other families were forced to leave their homes due to the swell, staying with family or friends; however, many people simply had to stay, helplessly watching as the water ruined their belongings.

Faustino Castro Espinoza lives next to the airport’s landing strip. With his arm extended at shoulder-level, he points to where to water level rose on the night of Friday, Nov 5th. The landing strip runs parallel to the Rio Nosara, a stream that fills up during the rainy season runs underneath. This stream stops its flow when the river swells.

Such was the case for Rocío Efenner Zumbado, who lives 300 meters away from Santa Marta’s soccer field. Since they were completely surrounded by water, the CNE informed them that they could not be assisted -- it was impossible to reach them. Rocío and her husband, Juan Vega Aguilar, lost a most of their furniture and appliances. Vega, who had just arrived from San Jose to work as a chef in one of the area’s hotels, also lost his job.

Climate Change
Luis Alvarado, a meteorologist at the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional (IMN) who specializes in climatology, explained that Guanacaste received 50% more rain than it usually does since “La Niña (which causes large-scale atmospheric changes) and a climate phenomenon in the Atlantic Ocean merged, bringing a lot of humidity (to Costa Rica).” When asked if there is a tendency towards an increase in the amount of rainfall, Alvarado explained, “There will not be a short-term increase (in rainfall) since 2010 was an unusual year however, we will have very strong fluctuations from one year to the next for the following 10 to 20 years.”

Alvarado added “In general, rainfall tends to fall in just a few hours, with amounts varying from one place to another.” This explains why it may rain heavily in Nosara but not in Guiones, just 6 kilometers away. “The weather is not what it used to be, we are going through a gradual change”.

The Economic Costs of the Rain

On November 15th, an article in El Financiero noted that in 2010 the country’s deficit could grow from 3% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to 5.3%, thereby increasing the country’s debt. This is due to the expenses that must be covered by the government as a result of the emergencies in the past few weeks.

Just in Nosara one Bailey bridge had to be installed over the Rio Frio after the old cement bridge collapsed, with an approximate cost of 82 million colones. According to Mario William, Local Coordinator of Nicoya’s CNE, as a result of tropical storm Thomas they incurred in expenses of more than 650.000 colones in cash for gas, meals and compensation for the rescue workers and aqueduct pipe repair. This amount does not include expenses related to the use of light aircraft and the helicopter to carry food, or the blankets, mattresses and 400 water and food packages that were purchased in Nosara. The almost 70 families that will receive monetary assistance from the Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social (IMAS) must also be added to the list.

In Adriana´s Sequeira house, as in many other houses, furnitures and electrique machines had to be lift up to protect them from the water and mud.

These numbers only represent the expenses for repairing the immediate damages; the exact amount that must be covered by the government is unknown. However, they show that material and human costs add up and continue to increase, year after year, due to the slow response on behalf of the authorities and to the lack of a preventive strategies and foresight in regards to emergency situations.


More Regional News

Total Lunar eclipse viewed from Nosara

On December 21st, from 1:30 to 3:30 am, photographer Rolf Sommer stayed up to see and photograph this unique event. More >

The end of the year might bring a new bridge to Rosario and Montaña rivers
• Decision was made during tropical storm Thomas

The State acquired two Bailey bridges (which can be disassembled) to place over Rosario and Montaña rivers. Now one is being placed over the first river. The job is being handled by Maicom S. A. construction, and it is hoped that it will be finished before the year ends. The work of placing the other bridge begins the second week of January, Vice Minister of Public Works María Lorena López let VON know by telephone. More >

Crime Appears to be Down but Need for Local Support Continues

The Tourist Police stationed at Playa Guiones appear to be deterring crime, but the delegation of twelve officers continues to face challenges related to local financial support, as well as some bureaucratic issues. More >

Zaragoza, Halfway Down the Road

The road that goes through this small yet beautiful town located amid Nicoya’s mountains is the only alternate route for Nosara communities when route 160 is closed down. Although many people learned about the road’s bad conditions on Thursday, November 4th, after a bridge collapsed cutting off Nosara, Zaragoza´s residents have known this for years, and they also have been waiting for years for the improvements to arrive that were promised long ago. More >

Border Crossing
Calm at the Border inspite of conflict between Nicaragua and Costa Rica

As I prepared for a trip to Nicaragua, several of my Costa Rican friends expressed concern because of the current friction between the governments of the two countries. A couple people even suggested I go to Panama to renew my visa instead. The two countries have been in conflict since October 2010 regarding sovereignty of the river San Juan. More >

Palí opened a new store in Samara
• Low prices and competition will impact local supermarkets

On November 12, the highly anticipated Palí opened its doors in Samara with a festive atmosphere. Many people went to check out the new store, and especially to check out the low prices. But not everyone is happy to have a big chain store like Palí in Samara. Some worry about the effect it might have on local supermarkets and pulperias (small local stores that sell the basics). More >

Earthquake Will Destroy Poor Quality Constructions in Nicoya Peninsula
• The Comisión Nacional de Emergencias accepts that most homes don’t meet Seismic Building Code standards

For a while now, scientists have been studying seismic activity and its potential in the Nicoya Peninsula, and the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica (OVSICORI) has estimated that the next earthquake along the fault here could be between a magnitude of 7.7 and 7.9. But what would such a strong earthquake mean for people with homes in the Nicoya, Samara and Nosara areas? More >

2010 Municipal Elections – intelligent vote
Know the Candidates for Syndics
and What They Do
More >

Syndic hopefuls aspire
to decentralize the Municipality

Next Sunday, December 5, five political parties have prepared their fifteen syndic candidates for the districts of Nicoya, Samara and Nosara to be elected to the municipality to fill the next term which, in this instance, will be six years. More >

Government Gives More Than $12,000 to Three Local Schools
• Funds for the Serapio López Elementary School were almost lost

Through Nicoya’s Municipalidad, the government granted over $12,000 to three local elementary schools to be used for purchasing construction materials. The schools that were favored are Santa Marta, Santa Teresita and Nosara’s Serapio López. More >

Brief Police News

Confrontation Between Juvenile Gangs on the Rise in Nosara More >

Seven Security Cameras Installed in Guiones More >

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