My first earthquake

On Wednesday, 5th September an earthquake of a magnitude of 7.6 took place in Costa Rica.
Although this happend to be a really heavy earthquake the reported damage was relatevely small.

Experience report on the earthquake in Costa Rica

We all got shaken really hard by the earthquake of a magnitude of 7.6 on Wednesday the 5th of September at 8:42 local time, which had rattled the small Central American country of Costa Rica.
Many friends wrote and asked if everything was alright. Here, everything is OK, just a few bottles of spirits are broken. Even the Swiss Embassy called and asked if everything was okay. Why did the Swiss Embassy called, although I am a German citizen? Probably because of a Swiss guest of mine.
I was just at the hardware store in our little village Esterones de Samara when the quake began. Ebert, the owner looked at me for a second, then told me it is an earthquake and the next second we were looking for the strongest iron girder to hold fast onto. The earthquake lasted about 25 seconds, but to us it seemed like an eternity. In front of us on the street some people layed down on the floor. In the hardware store it shaked real hard while different items flew off the shelves. Afterwards people stood up cautiously to inspect the damage. Nevertheless, most people were quite relaxed, but concerned about other family members and friends. In the supermarket many things that fell off the shelves layed spread out on the floor.
Of course my first concern was about the hotel as I expected serious damage. Perhaps a large crack in the pool, the houses being demolished…
But when I went back quickly, asking the workers what had happened, if someone got hurt and how much damage there was, they told me with a smile on their faces that everything was fine and that they will now check on all rooms. Only an elder German friend of mine had fallen on the floor and needed some time to recover. My staff was still a little nervous, but after a while everybody was okay again and the workers went home to be with their families.
After all, there was only small damage, nobody was injured, there were only two half-empty liquor bottles broken and two torn water pipes. Futhermore, electricity was cut and our phones did not work anymore.
Reported Damage
The city of Nicoya also reported little damage considering the intensity of the quake. The building of the national health insurance has always looked liable to collapse, and about the town hall people say that it makes no difference whether it is open or closed.
As well, there was a lack of unity about the epicenter, exact location and depth of the earthquake. It was first reported to be in Cangrejal in Sámara, then in Hojancha then in Alajuela. Surely those grinding plates can have a span of hundreds of kilometers.
Automatically, the tsunami warning center in the United States first put out a tsunami warning for the Pacific coast region. But can a tsunami even get where the epicenter is?
One can assume that the epicenter was near Sámara. That is where three tectonic plates press on each other- from the north the North American Plate at the Cocos Plate in the west and the Caribbean Sea plate to the east, probably in more than 40 km depth (the USGS estimated 41 kilometers ), and not as first reported in 8 kilometers depth . Because the shallower an earthquake occurs the more it rattles. Through the shift the plates dispresserised and caused a tremor.

Why wasn´t there more damage caused by an earthquake of magnitude 7.6?
The most plausible explanation for me is that the caused damage is linked to the soil structure. The soil consists of large fragments with a lot of lime sandstone. When the ground moves the whole block shakes. That way less cracks that tear the ground and structures are formed.
In other parts of the country, for example at the hospital in Puntarenas, which was completely evacuated, and in Nicaragua, the damage was greater and as always, the poor people suffer the most.
I have lived in Costa Rica for 20 years now, but this was my first heavy earthquake and I have to say great Costa Rica! Electricity was back five hours after that fierce earthquake and even the phones worked again.
I think and hope that there will not be any more major earthquake in Guanacaste. The last heavy earthquake in Nicoya was in 1950. Naturally, there are always smaller aftershocks.
One can not know or even predict, but history shows that it usually works that way.
I, personnally now got an idea of what an earthquake is like and need no further experience.
There were several small aftershocks reported in the last days, for more information visit ovsicori.una.

This blog has no intellectual or even scientific claim, but should be understood as an experience report.

Costa Rica, located in Central America is an amazing country. For more Costa Rica information click on the link here.


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