One mishap mars Cartago pilgrimage of thousands

The de facto four-day weekend created a flood of pilgrims to Cartago. The flow was so heavy that police agencies put in effect Sunday the plans they had for Monday.

The Autopista Florencio del Castillo between San José and Cartago was closed partly to eastbound traffic, and pilgrims had full use of the restricted lane.

That decision followed a traffic accident Sunday morning in Curridabat when a auto plowed into a group of 12 pilgrims. One woman was hurt critically. Traffic police said the 19-year-old driver was not intoxicated and that he pulled onto the main road from a side street. Others in the group were hospitalized, too.

Pilgrims braved less than favorable weather. An afternoon rain fell in San José and registered about 11.4 millimeters (some .45 of an inch). The rain was highly variable, and hardly any was reported in Cartago or in Tres Ríos, which is on the route from the west. Those headed east to Cartago did not fare as well. The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional reported 27 millimeters (1.1 inches) from Sunday morning through early evening in Turrialba.

A section of Cartago was hit with strong winds Sunday afternoon, and 18 homes lost their metal roofs. Other homes were damaged.

The weather institute predicted similar conditions for today: A cloudy, warm morning leading to afternoon showers and perhaps thunderstorms.
Tropical Storm Eugene is in the Pacific moving west northwest over open water, said the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. The storm is likely to have little effect in Costa Rica. It is off the coast of El Salvador and Guatemala.

In the Atlantic there is a tropical wave and an elongated area of low pressure that is just entering the Caribbean. The hurricane center said that it has a 90 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone by Monday.

The system will not affect pilgrims because it is moving west at just 15 miles per hour. But it may threaten Costa Rica by week’s end.

Some on the pilgrimage Sunday had little regard for the rain, but others carried umbrellas and 4,000-colon, Chinese-made plastic parkas. Vendors have been selling these along the route.

The big flood of pilgrims is today, and police are standing by. Most will spend the night in front of the basilica and await a Mass Tuesday morning. Although Monday is not a legal holiday, absenteeism will be high. Tuesday is the holiday, and buses are being mobilized to return pilgrims from Cartago to all points in the country.

The Cruz Roja said that it treated 183 pilgrims by midday Sunday. The busiest aid station is in the plaza of the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles., the goal of the pilgrimage. Some 400 Cruz Roja workers are at stations all over the country. Most of those seeking help complain of cramps and sore muscles, although victims of four falls have been reported.

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