Repeated shocks do not faze Pacific coast residents

Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica graphic
Map shows the cluster of moderate quakes around Sámara and Nosara.

Nearly three weeks after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake, the Guanacaste region continues to be rocked by light to moderate tremors, including more than a dozen of a magnitude greater than 4.5.

While the uncomfortable regularity of these quakes has kept some people apprehensive, many members of the Pacific beach community of Nosara have accepted the earth movements as part of a new routine and have carried on with business as usual.

As with most of the country, the initial Sept. 5 earthquake inflicted little physical damage on the community, allowing its population to continue on very quickly.

“The buildings didn’t suffer any damage, and we went back to normal straight away as soon as we cleaned up the broken bottles,” said Matt Hazelton, general manager of the Gilded Iguana Hotel and Restaurant.

Nosara is a collection of several beach communities on the Pacific Coast side of the Nicoya Peninsula. It is about 20 to 30 kilometers north of where the Sept. 5 earthquake occurred.

Since that quake, many of the dozens of aftershocks have had epicenters in close proximity to Nosara. According to the Web site of the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica, 15 earthquakes of 4.5 or greater magnitude have occurred in Nicoya Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas since the first one. This includes two that occurred last weekend.

The latest, according to the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica at the Universidad de Costa Rica, were:

At 8:56 a.m. Sunday in the Pacific at a point halfway between Sámara and Nosara. The magnitude was 4.7.

At 3:35 p.m. Sunday in the Pacific west northwest of Nosara. The magnitude was 4.4

While tremors are common here as the Cocos tectonic plate slips underneath the Caribbean, quakes of 7.6 are very rare. Most people were surprised that so many buildings and homes were spared significant damage.

“It was amazing there was so little damage here given the magnitude of the earthquake,” said Bobbi Johnson, who runs a house rental business in town. “I take care of 15 homes and there wasn’t structural damage in any of them.”

Although there were no deaths or serious injuries in the quake, Hazelton said that a few homes in the community did suffer significant damage.

“There were some people who were less fortunate than us who lost a good portion of their homes or their homes were destroyed,” he said.
In the case of the Mini Super Delicias del Mundo, a small market in Playa Guiones, the damage from fallen products was what hurt the business the most, said employee Javier Norguera.

“Many things fell,” he said about the September earthquake.

However, Norguera said that since then the store has installed small barriers on their product shelves and the damage of subsequent quakes has been very minor.

Despite little physical damage for most people, the constant shakes have affected people in different ways. Some continue to be prepared to evacuate in case of a tsunami.

“People are still pretty on edge,” said Ms. Johnson. “People are sleeping in their clothes with bags by the door.”

Conversely, others have been largely unperturbed by the earthquakes. Hazelton was out surfing the morning of Sept. 5. He said this may have given him a different sense of the subsequent tremors.

“I definitely felt it, and it was an interesting experience, but my wife says ‘Since you weren’t on land and didn’t see the buildings shaking, it wasn’t as frightening as it was for other people,’” he said.

About 25 kilometers southeast is the town of Sámara, which was six kilometers from the Sept. 5 epicenter, the transfer back to normal has been even smoother.

Rosy Rios, who co-owns the Hideaway Hotel in Sámara, said that day that her hotel only suffered minor cosmetic changes.

Since that day she has felt only a few of the aftershocks, but they have been very mild overall.

“When people say there’s thousands of them, you get the sense that it’s shaking all the time,” said Ms. Rios.

Furthermore, she said that there is virtually no evidence in her hotel or in town that the quake ever happened.

“Right now, anybody who came into this hotel wouldn’t even notice there was an earthquake,” Ms. Rios said. “Even though our structure is better than most, I haven’t noticed much damage even in the older buildings.”

Reports following the quake said that two homes were destroyed in Sámara and 10 persons suffered injuries. Another hotel suffered about $6,000 in damage, its operator reported.

With the few damages now repaired, both towns are set to handle the upcoming peak-tourist time. Despite the earthquakes, both Hazelton and Ms. Johnson said that no one has cancelled their reservations during the high-season that will start to in November.

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