Emergency officials get a break to inspect damages

The rain let up, the sun came out, and emergency officials lowered the alert level and took to the air Monday. They wanted to check out three mountains that are in various stages of collapsing.

Workmen move a section of a bailey bridge into place on the Autopista del Sol. They also are putting in pilings to serve as footings for the bridge ends. The spans must accommodate heavy trucks. The bailey bridges, which come in sections, have been lifesavers for Costa Rica.
Photo: Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes

The good news is that the hills above the Río Pacacua in Ciudad Colón is not an immediate danger to the community below. But emergency officials said that persons living along the watercourse should be prepared to move. Geologists also climbed the hills to find large cracks and slippage in the hillsides. Eventually there will be one or more slides.

Officials also studied the Cerro Chitaría above Salitral, Santa Ana. The mountain dumped two slides into the Quebrada Canoa last week and threatened homes nearby. Some 58 persons still are in public shelters in that community. The watercourse is filled with rocks, trees and other debris. The municipal employees are using heavy equipment to remove much of the debris in anticipation of more heavy October rains.

The national emergency commission said that its radio communication center got some 200 reports of flooding, landslides and requests to inspect bridges and roads during the last few days. At least 40 cantons in the country had some kind of damage, officials said.

Among the problems is the Autopista del Sol, which will probably stay closed through Thursday as workmen try to stabilize a bailey bridge that has been installed over a subsidence. The problem is at kilometer 47 between Atenas and Orotina. Two portable bailey bridges are being installed at the location. Workmen are putting in 30 pilings to support the ends of the bridges. The spans must accommodate 40 tons, officials said.

The spans will remain in place until managers of the Autopista del Sol figure out how to repair the slippage of the roadbed.

The Interamericana Norte is open again at Cerro Cambronero (Kilometer 87). A bailey bridge has been installed there, too. This and the Autopista del Sol are the main routes between the Central Valley and the Pacific coast. Traffic is moving slowly because the bridge is one lane. Truckers reported that they had to wait up to two hours to pass the several miles of damaged roadway.

Officials have opened the roadway for 24 hours a day for passenger cars and light truck. Heavy vehicles still are restricted to 12 hours from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Officials also said that Ruta 301 from Acosta to Parrita has been closed due to rain damage.

A section of the Costanera Sur between Dominical and Puerto Cortés was restricted to one lane Monday afternoon due to rain damage, officials said.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said Monday that 248 persons still were in shelters. In addition to Salitral, there were shelters in San Ramón de Alajuela, Fatima de Atenas and the Casa de Cutura in Naranjo.

The assessment of damages still is going on. The commission said that 95 stretches of road were damaged, 20 bridges had some type of problem, five dikes also had problems and that 21 water lines suffered breaks and four schools suffered damage. Some bridges were destroyed, and in the case of one in San Antonio de Escazú officials had to destroy a bridge because it became blocked with debris. The action prevented widespread flooding there.

The commission lowered the alert level to the lowest stage that has been in force since August. The commission also warned of rain that is supposed to intensify today.

Meanwhile, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said that there is a broad area of low pressure over Puerto Rico headed this way. The system has a 50 percent chance to become a cyclone in the next 48 hours, the center said.

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