UN humanitarian office moves to support victims hit by Costa Rican earthquake

13 January 2009

At least 13 people have died and 56 are still missing after a 6.1 magnitude earthquake shook Costa Rica last week, the United Nations humanitarian arm reported today while announcing a field visit to assess makeshift shelters accommodating almost 2,000 victims of the disaster.

The earthquake – considered as “strong” on the Richter Scale – struck on Thursday just 30 kilometres north of San Jose, the national capital, and more than a thousand aftershocks have been felt since, directly affecting more than 2,400 people.

Although there has been no request for international assistance, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) regional team in Panama, bordering Costa Rica to the south, is monitoring the situation and has scheduled a field visit this week to assess some 18 temporary shelters set up to house 1,900 people.

Their immediate needs are for health, water and sanitation and protection from the possibility of flooding and further landslides, OCHA said. Some 36 counties out of 81 are still on red alert due to the collapse of infrastructure and the fear of further seismic movements.

Several agencies, including the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), are also working to support assessments and relief operations in coordination with local ministries.

OCHA said it has released $40,000 in cash grants to support rescue and relief efforts on the ground and that other agencies have mobilized their local and regional resources and funds.


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