May 21, 2013
Powerful quake hits Costa Rica, two dead
A powerful earthquake rocked Costa Rica on Wednesday, killing at least two people, sparking landslides, knocking down buildings, and briefly triggering a tsunami warning.
Striking a tourist region popular with Hollywood stars, Costa Rica's worst quake in over two decades sowed panic in the capital, disrupting power supplies and communications, and caused an entire hospital on the Pacific coast to be evacuated.
The Red Cross said two people died in Guanacaste, the northwestern province at the epicenter of the 7.6 magnitude quake, which split open tarmac roads, cracked gravestones and sent books tumbling off library shelves.
One of the dead was a man working on a construction site who was killed when part of a wall fell on top of him. The other was a woman who had a heart attack.
Costa Rican television said 22 people were also 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."
Dozens of patients were stretchered or wheeled out of the Monsenor Sanabria hospital just metres (yards) from the Pacific coast after the facade of the nine-storey building began to crumble during the quake, police from the port city of Puntarenas said.
Local media said the building housed 218 patients and that all were relocated to other hospitals or sent home.
Actor Mel Gibson owns a lush forest retreat at Playa Barrigona in Samara not far from the epicenter, which he recently put up for sale for $29.75 million. Guests to the 200-hectare (500-acre) property have included Bruce Willis and Britney Spears.
Esteban Moreno of the national emergency services (CNE), said some buildings in the worst-hit areas had collapsed, though he added they were mostly older, and of poor quality.
Some 21 hotels reported minor damage such as broken windows and fallen objects in Guanacaste province and the north of the country, but none reported serious damage, said Alcides Mora, spokesperson for the Costa Rican Tourism Institute.
The small Central American nation may have been spared worse destruction due to the fact the quake struck fairly deep, coming in some 40.8 km (25.4 miles) below the surface.
The epicenter was about 87 miles (140 km) from San Jose, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.