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20 years

Estimated 7.9 earthquake strikes Costa Rica

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA – September 5th, 2012 – ( – Costa Rica has just been rocked by a strong earthquake.  Reports of strong shaking are being reported from the Central Valley, Central Pacific, Northern Pacific, and Lake Arenal regions amongst others.  The USGS is initially reporting that the quake measured 7.9 on the richter scale and struck approximately 80km south of the northern city of Liberia, and 153 km west of the capital San Jose, at a depth of 20km (12.4 miles).

A tsunami alert has been issued for most of the countries in the region.  We have received reports of downed power lines in San Jose and some electric service being affected.

Tourists at resorts near the coast are being taken to higher ground.

We have no reports of injuries or damages as of this time.  USGS says the quake struck at 8:42am local time.

USGS has updated the reported magnitude of the quake to 7.6 on the richter scale.

UPDATE 1: There are reports that the quake has cut power in some areas of San Jose.

UPDATE 2: A tsunami watch is in effect for much of the Caribbean, including along the coastlines of Brazil, Mexico, most countries in Central America as well as Chile.

UPDATE 3: Local news is reporting that the epicenter was 8km NE of Samara.

UPDATE 4: Minor damages are reported at the University of Costa Rica.

UPDATE 5: Aftershocks are expected to last a few days and my exceed 6.0 on the richter scale.

UPDATE 6: Victor Rodriguez from Costa Rica’s OVSICORI agency:  ”We ask people to abstain from going into a damaged house, we recommend people in the Pacific area to get away from beaches and look for higher gounds until the tsunami alert is over.

UPDATE 7: Javier Valverde , a Guanacaste resident : “Currently things are okay, it was very strong but the Nicoya gulf was mostly  affected, therefore, the tsunami alert. I am currently in a hotel in Playa Langosta. Tourists are being taken to higher grounds, about at least 30 meters above sea level.

UPDATE 8: Most tsunami alerts have been canceled but remain in effect for Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua as well as Chile.

UPDATE 9: We have reports that power is out in the Comunidad and Filadelfia areas of Guanacaste near the tourist destinations of Playas del Coco and Playa Hermosa, amongst others.

UPDATE 10 (9:54AM local time): We are receiving reports that landslides are blocking some roads throughout the country. 

UPDATE 11 (9:57AM local): Office buildings in San Jose have been evacuated.

The closest town to the epicenter was the tourist beach town of Samara.  We have reports that schools, businesses, and others have closed.

UPDATE 12 (10:07AM local): A bridge in Sarapiqui suffered a complete collapse.  The bridge crosses the Rio Sucio, however it is the secondary bridge and not the main bridge.  The hospital in Puntarenas suffered structural damage.  There is also some reported damage to the hospital in Heredia.  The electrical engineering building of the University of Costa Rica has a “huge crack.”  All buildings at UCR will be closed until at least 1pm while experts assess the damage.

UPDATE 13 (10:28AM local): There is no electricity or water in the northern pacific beach town of Playas del Coco, Guanacaste.  Most internet service is disrupted as well.  One resident speaking with Inside Costa Rica reports that roof tiles were shaken off his home.  The resident also says there are crowds of 60 to 80 people gathered on the beach “looking for a tsunami.”  We cannot reiterate enough, although the chances of a tsunami may be low, do not put your life in danger.  

UPDATE 14 (10:41AM local): There are reports of damages at the Hotel RIU in Guanacaste. 

UPDATE 15 (10:54AM local): The Banco Nacional in Playas del Coco has suffered some damage.  Stay clear for risk of falling glass.  Residents and tourists in the Samara area (the epicenter) are reportedly gathering at the gas station.  Roads leading in and out of Samara are reportedly blocked due to landslides.  Electricity is out in the popular beachside town of Tamarindo.  

UPDATE 16 (11:06am local): The Liberia airport is reporting normal operations and no damages.  The first reports of injuries are coming in with 10 to 20 injured, but not critical patients transported to the clinic in Filadelfia, Guanacaste.  One Costa Rican woman is reported dead from a heart attack suffered during the earthquake.

UPDATE 17 (1:26pm local) –  (via our friends at - Samara’s EBAIS (Health Clinic) is closed to the public. There is glass from broken windows and other objects that do not allow proper health care. In addition, the building is quite old and doctors are afraid that more aftershocks will occur. For now, no collapsed houses have been reported in Samara, Buena Vista or Estrada.

UPDATE 18 (1:39pm local) – (via our friends at - Santa Marta and Ostional are isolated. Two houses collapsed in Santa Marta, the concrete bridge known as “Rasta” has several cracks and therefore, it is not recommended to cross it. No one was injured but the structural and material damages are catastrophic, most of the area’s residents lost everything.



Editor’s note: This is a breaking story and we will update it as we get more information.



 News media: Inside Costa Rica can be reached via our U.S. number at 1-818-748-6292 or in Costa Rica at +506 8356-7587 or via email at [email protected]


IF YOU ARE HAVING TROUBLE REACHING A LOVED ONE, email us at [email protected] and we will attempt to reach them via local phone in Costa Rica.  We’ve had some success reaching hotels and other numbers from here in Costa Rica even though international calls from outside here in Costa Rica aren’t going through.  We can’t attend to everyone but we’ll do what we can.




estimated epicenter of the earthquake in Costa Rica

Estimated epicenter of the earthquake in Costa Rica, courtesy of OVSICORI

Costa Rica earthquake

One of many landslides affecting Costa Rica


A resident of Santa Cruz, Guanacaste said roof tiles “were raining down.”




Editors’ Note: Members of the media are free to re-use our material once proper credit has been given.

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