The 7.6 magnitude earthquake occurred at 8:42 a.m. and its epicenter was 6.3 kilometers (almost four miles) south southwest of Playa Sámara, according to the Universidad de Costa Rica’s Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica.
Despite the town being so close, José Ángel Gómez Sámara, the top police official there, reported that only two houses were destroyed. He added that 10 occupants were injured but not seriously.
Locals and tourists alike evacuated the town soon after the quake in fear of a tsunami, but most business owners never reopened and, instead, took stock of their damages.
“All businesses are closed,” said Gómez. “There’s not much activity now.”
According to the reports of various government agencies, the rest of the country was also largely spared from major damage in comparison to the damage caused by similar earthquakes in the past. Residents in most regions only faced power outages and road closures.More than 230 smaller earthquakes of 2.0 magnitude or greater shook the entire area throughout the rest of the day and night. One was a 4.7 quake between the towns of Nosara and Sámara. There was some disagreement as to the location of the major quake’s epicenter. The seismic engineering laboratory placed the epicenter near Såmara, while the United States Geological Survey placed it about 22 kilometers (14 miles) southeast of Nicoya further inland on the Nicoya Peninsula. The national emergency commission said 20 kilometers to the south of Sámara.
Sámara residents reported very strong quakes that knocked objects off of tables and shelves and destroyed windows.
“Televisions, microwaves and glasses fell, windows broke,” said Victor Manuel Zuñiga Zuñiga, who works at the Sámara Treehouse Inn. “It was very, very strong.” He estimates that the quake’s damage will cost the hotel between two and three million colons, perhaps as much as $6,000.
Other establishments had far less damages, including the Hideaway Hotel, according to employee Rosie Rios, who was outside during the quake.
“When I got back to the hotel, there was some cosmetic damage, but overall it was fine,” she said. “Overall, I think we did pretty well.”
Ms. Rios attributes the minimal damage to the high-quality construction of the building, and a separate generator had prevented problems from the temporary power outage. She still lamented at losing some glasses and flower vases, but said that one must put those losses in perspective.
“In the scope of things, you pick it up with a dust pan, and you’re just happy that everything is okay,” she said.
Workers at Skynet Tours in Sámara were just about to start a local trip for visitors when the earthquake struck forcing them to cancel.
“Since there was a tsunami alert. Everyone evacuated Sámara,” said Skynet employee David Orteja. “Nobody was expecting a tour, and nobody was expecting to work either.”
Orteja reported that the quake knocked books off of shelves and even computers off of desks in the firm’s office.
No one was injured in any of these cases. Only Gómez reported 10 injuries in the two houses he said were destroyed. Five persons were in each house.
Up the coast in the beach community of Nosara the tremor caused a temporary panic but largely did not harm anyone or cause property damage.
“This was the scariest thing ever!” said Patty Yaniz, a resident of Nosara, in an email. “Lots of stuff crashed to the floor and some minor damage to our house.”
Earlier in the day Carlos Yaniz, the woman’s husband, said that a couple of houses had collapsed in the town of Nosara. He also said that electricity and water were not running and the community had begun rationing water in case it took days to make repairs.
“There was a lot of movement, but so far so good,” said Yaniz.
Ms.Yaniz confirmed that power had been restored to the community by early evening,
According to Evelyn Ardon, a press officer at the U.S. Embassy in San José, no U.S. citizens had called to report they had been injured or needed help, but the embassy still sent a team to Guanacaste. The embassy staffer urged U.S. citizens in Costa Rica to call and register with the Embassy and then call loved ones in the United States.
The whole area is under a general emergency commission alert that includes the entire county and a special emergency declaration by Marco Jiménez, mayor of the Municipalidad de Nicoya. The local state of emergency is scheduled to last 72 hours. There was structural damage in Nicoya, too. That administrative center for the peninsula is some 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) east of Sámara.