Earthquake overview : A major earthquake has struck Costa Rica – onshore with large magnitude. Tsunami Alert has been removed by CNE. There is damage in the epicentral area due to the shaking.
Tell us when you think you have felt this earthquake.
Costa Rica-only earthquake list
Keep this page open to read more details when they become available
Most recent information on top – Start of the article at the bottom
Update September 10
Our colleague Mike from Eqarchives did a great task in mapping the aftershocks of both massive Costa Rica (22) and El Salvador (173) quakes. Are they related ? Nobody seems to have a clue at this moment but both earthquakes had almost the same Magnitude and the aftershocks are overlapping each other on the map. Click on the map to use and play with the interactive scalable map.
Update 21:40 UTC
- In Panama the earthquake caused power failures in Baru but was reestablished yesterdays afternoon, it caused also a landslide in Los Placintos and was felt in Chiriquí and Bocas del Toro with no damage reported.
- Telica volcano in Nicaragua saw a temperature increase from 200 grades Celsius to 450. The government has alerted the people living in the area
Overview update 21:00 UTC
CNE report Nr. 3
- 207 people are temporarily housed in 5 shelters
- 190 houses have been damaged in Guanacaste, 40 in Alajuela and 10 in Puntaneras
- 2 roads are still closed (blocked), Zarcero – San Carlos and La Colonia – Puerto Viejo. The government is evaluating the use of explosives to move the rocks from the road on the first one. The second is clocked by the collapsed steel bridge n Alajuela. The government plans to lay a bailey bridge over the river to get the road open again
- 5 bridges have been damaged in Guanacaste (3 with damaged foundations and 2 with lesser damage)
- 90% of the public services have been restored
- there are still power failures on Chira island, Cóbano and Nandayure
- 107 localities have send damage reports to CNE
- 6 aqua-ducts are no longer working (3 in Guanacaste and 3 in Puntarenas)
- 9 schools are damaged in Guanacaste (6 in Santa Cruz and 3 in Carillo)
- CCSS-Hospital in San Ramon sector has structural damage.
- Monseñor Sanabria hospital in Puntaneras was evacuated due to structural damage. (patients were transferred to other places.)
- Hospitals in Nandayure, Hojancha and Nocoya are still being evaluated.
Update 10:34 UTC : Aftershocks
There are many more aftershocks than the ones listed on the map, but these were the most important ones. Click on the image to be linked to the interactive eqarchives map. Every aftershock can be watched there with all the necessary details.
Update 06:00 UTC:
100 houses have been damaged on the península of Nicoya, Valverde Vega and Naranjo. Engineers are visiting the houses to evaluate the damage.
From the CNE Report 2:
- 107 localities have been affected.
- About 50 houses have been checked with ranging damage along with around 25 different public buildings – all with minor damage
- 200 patients have been fully evacuated from Puntarenas Hospital. The 4 other hospitals in the area are running fine.
- A full report from CNE can be read here in Spanish - CNE Partial Damage Summary – Number 2
Update 03:25 UTC:
As stated earlier yesterday, the damage could mimic that of the 1950 earthquake (the last major earthquake in the region) with improvements due to better code compliance and building practice. A major earthquake hit Nicoya on October 6, 1950 (October 5 Local) with churches and 25% of dwellings uninhabitable. Markets were ruined, pipe networks destroyed, many old houses collapsed, however again there were no recorded deaths. The quake measured also M7.7 and was about 50km in depth. It was also felt strongly in Nicaragua.
Update 03:18 UTC:
UCR – University of Costa Rica has no damage to the campuses and will return to normal today with the exception of a kindergarten where panelling from the roof displaced slightly.
Update 02:58 UTC: So why has there been so little damage in comparison to other M7.6 events?
President of the College of Engineers and Architects, Olman Vargas, believes that despite the magnitude of the earthquake damage was minimal due to the high quality of materials and construction in Costa Rica, which must meet strict seismic code since 1974. Earthquake-report.com agrees. In the Worldwide Seismic code index published by James Daniell in CATDAT, Costa Rica has one of the highest values (96/100) in the world for code compliance and code quality.
Vargas said that Costa Rica has a “culture of concrete and steel”, with its buildings long ceasing to be built of mud or adobe construction, as in other parts of the world and they are more susceptible to these events. All construction in Costa Rica are supervised by specialists who, according to Vargas, have compliance “with all world standards, with them being built in California and Japan.”
Costa Rica is a success story with a constantly improving seismic resistant code since 1974 but also a culture of preventive measures before this time. The improvement has been produced through constant reminders of earthquakes like the Limon 1991 earthquake, unlike some other countries which wait 200 or 300 years for a devastating earthquake before reacting.
Update 02:37 UTC
- CNE still has a red alert. Only 1 indirect death is reported as yet through the heart attack. (- The Costa Rica Red Cross has reduced the number of fatalities to 1 (woman of 50 or 55 years old, depending on the source). The Red Cross could not confirm the second person who allegedly had been killed by a collapsing wall. In pure earthquake terms, the woman who perished after a heart attack, cannot be counted as a direct earthquake victim (secondary reason).)
- Over 30 people have been injured, but none severely.
- There have been over 190 aftershocks between M3 and 4.7, but this is a huge difference from the M7.6 where usually we can expect a sequence of aftershocks of at least M5, and expect a few of M6.
- As a hospital in Puntaareanas has been closed, people looking for care have to visit other nearby dispensaria
- The MOPT has started repair works on 7 closed roads
- 80% of the treated persons in hospitals had mainly “nervous breakdown” problems
- Water and Sewer Agency sent tanks to supply drinking water to the center of Puntarenas, that have had no water from 4pm to 10pm, due to the repair of damage to the distribution system. Tanks are also being sent to communities and Tilarán Bagaces whose distribution system reported a malfunction displays water being very turbid.
- Officials of the Costa Rican Electricity Institute reported a switch of 138 kilowatts in Santa Rita that supplies communities Paquera, Jicaral, Cóbano and Samara. This outage also caused water pumps, which use electricity, to stop and cause a shortage of water in these communities. As a result of this power failure also affected were the 73 radio bases which are used for mobile telephones and the Internet, of which only about 40 radio bases/towers are damaged in total.
-The collapse of an old metal railway bridge Naranjal in Sarapiqui has left isolated villagers, who will have to use a longer route to get out of their town to Guápiles.
-Falling material was reported from roads in Hojancha and Sámara, Poas and Santa Gertrudes de Grecia, and Santa Cruz and Las Vueltas.
-The CNE continues to conduct a in-depth building survey.
-The Red Cross also reported two missing in the town of Nicoya, near the epicenter of the earthquake, and it is not confirmed whether this is from the earthquake or flooding that has occurred this week.
Update 01:30 UTC: A number of great diagrams were made by LIS at UCR (University of Costa Rica) in terms of the instrumental feel of the earthquake and how it compares to past earthquakes.
The earthquake registered accelerations of nearly 0.6g, a stunning amount for the minor damage that has been seen around.
The video below from Ivan Arroyo, shows the shaking of this earthquake at various places. The strongest shaking can be seen in the second sequence and was recorded by a security webcam in a parking lot (we guess not far away from the epicenter). Unfortunately, we have no locations from the different sequences. In some material you can see that the power goes down after a few seconds. In other video shots you do see people running outside, far more dangerous than hiding against an inner wall. A big thank you to Yvan who is specialized in chasing these sequences. They are giving a perfect idea of how long what kind of shaking lasted. In this case about 10 to 20 seconds heavy shaking in the car park. One can also see that people running away in the car park (probably workers) have a hard time to run.
Update 21:57 UTC:
- The CNE (National Emergency Comission) declared a red alert in all the country.
- So far Ovsicori has counted 170 aftershocks
- As the hospital in Puntaareanas has been closed, people looking for care have to visit other nearby dispensaria
- The Costa Rica Red Cross has reduced the number of fatalities to 1 (woman of 50 or 55 years old, depending on the source). The Red Cross could not confirm the second person who allegedly had been killed by a collapsing wall. In pure earthquake terms, the woman who perished after a heart attack, cannot be counted as a direct earthquake victim (secondary reason).
- The MOPT has started repair works on 7 closed roads
- 80% of the treated persons in hospitals had mainly “nervous breakdown” problems
Update 20:54 UTC
Structural damage has been reported from :
- Hacienda Ministery in San Jose
- Popular bank in San Jose
- Hospital Monseñor Sanabria, in Puntarenas
- 10 houses destroyed in Lepanto de Puntaneras
Update 20:26 UTC
- Oviscori reports 75 aftershocks of the earthquake ranging from 3 to 4.7
- The image below is from a lifted part of a road near Nicoya
Update 19:59 UTC
- Some neighboring countries had called a tsunami alert, not knowing exactly where the epicenter was. All these tsunami alerts have now been canceled. GDACS did calculated theoretic waves of max. 0.2 meter in many Costa Rican localities.
- Most of the damage we have seen so far is broken windows, some collapsed walls in older houses, fallen ceilings etc. Nothing as devastating as often in similar earthquakes elsewhere.
- A lot of damage in the municipal building of Nicoya, apparently all the second floor has been damaged.
Update 19:53 UTC
- RIU Guacanaste hotel has been damaged
- kids in a school were injured when the ceiling fell on them but nothing serious
- BAC Credomatic and Scotiabank are halting their services. HSBC continues to operate.
Update 19:45 UTC
- La Anexion hospital in Nicoya reports 7 injured, one of them seriously injured
Update 19:32 UTC
- The Rincon de la Vieja volcano shows new fissures probably due to the earthquake
- Today’s earthquake is the second strongest one in Costa Rica as far as history logs can go back in time
Update 19:28 UTC :
- The Santa Barbara church in Santa Cruz was partially destroyed said the residents but nobody was inside when it happened
- The hospital in Puntarenas is seriously damaged from the 4th floor upwards. The hospital carried 219 patients at the occurence of the earthquake. This has been reported by firefighters.
- 3 landslides are reported as very important. these landslides are situated in between Zancedo and Quesada
Update 19:12 UTC :
- The dikes in the Tampisque river near Filadelfia has been (seriously ?) damaged
- The church of San Nicolas de Nicoya and Quebrada Honda got fisures and cracked walls. The Naranjo church apparently has a lot of serious damage.
Update 19:05 UTC :
- Power has been restored in San Antonio de Belén, San Juan, San Lorenzo, Santa Bárbara de Heredia, Zapote and Desamparados.
- In various hospitals (ie Mexico hospital), only patients with serious injuries are accepted. Planned surgery has been cancelled as priority is given to injured people from the earthquake
Update 18:45 UTC :
- A lot of damage is reported from Cobana
- ICE hopes to re-establish 100% of the communications within a couple of hours
- Apart from the mainshock in Samara, 14 other important earthquakes have been recorded by state owned Ovsicori in various other parts of the country
- at least 5 roads are totally blocked because of cracks and landslides
Update 18:34 UTC :
- Many parts of the country are reporting various degrees of damage.
- The Colonial Temple in Nicoya (377 years old) did suffer a lot of damage (see image in better times)
Update 18:25 UTC :
- A second fatality has been added to the already known hearth attack victim. A man was hit by a collapsing wall in Nicoya. Nothing could be done by the rescue services to save his live.
Update 18:19 UTC :
- Ovsicori has reported a little while ago that 25 aftershocks have been recorded the first hour after the mainshock.
- Filadelfia is considered more and more as the “most affected” location of this earthquake. Filadelfia is also the location were the 50 year old woman died from a heart attack.
Update 18:05 UTC :
- The last powerful earthquake in Nicoya occurred on October 6, 1950 and made a lot of damage. 25% of the houses collapsed. A lot of damage was also inflicted at the port of Puntarenas, also used for cruiseships.
- A total of approx. 28000 people will have experienced a very strong shaking today.
- Today’s earthquake has been felt well in Nicaragua and in Panama
Update 17:46 UTC :
- A woman has died because of an heart attack in Filadelfia, Guanacaste
Update 17:43 UTC :
An ER reader having witnessed the earthquake in Monteverde wrote : “Sitting at desk when hit took cover under desk, hard to stand. Rolling waves lasted maybe 30-45 seconds or so, no damage just small items knocked down, pictures on walls askew. Have lived over Hayward fault in SF bay area, which is more jerky, strong jolt. This was more like waves on ocean.”
The shaking can well be seen on the TeleSur live TV coverage on one of their webcams. It is unsure were the images have been recorded, but probably in San Jose, the capital. The shaking lasted fairly long. Long severe shaking (in the direct epicenter area it must have been more severe) is increasing the chance on serious damage.
Update 17:40 UTC :
- The areas close to the epicenter have NO cell phone connection (GSM) and NO electrical power. Luckily this earthquake occurred during daylight.
- GSM masts in Costa Rica continuously FAIL to keep running during earthquakes. 2 main reasons : a) masts have no battery power and/or are not anchored as earthquake resistant b) everybody starts calling.
2 simple solutions : Oblige the telecommunications company to install battery backuped masts safely anchored and cut down on speech allowing only text messages
Update 17:35 UTC :
- The football game Costa Rica – Mexico will go on like planned as the National Stadium in San Jose is not affected
- Seismologists are analyzing whether todays Nicaya peninsula earthquake was the one “to expect”. Rember one of our earlier paragraphs were we wrote that the island was lifted today by 1 meter because it was pulled down during 60 years. Knowing all that, an earthquake is evident at some time, but today’s science cannot predict when earthquakes will happen and how strong they will be. Today’s earthquake is not a surprise but the strength of it certainly is. The lifting also suggests that today’s earthquake was a subduction earthquake. Subduction earthquakes are far less dangerous than transform earthquakes, but if you are living through it, it remains horrible.
Update 17:26 UTC :
- So far we have found evidence of 20 people injured
Update 17:17 UTC :
- So far (but is far to early to be 100% sure) there are NO reports of killed or severely injured people. Keep this page open to be informed.
Update 17:16 UTC :
- 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. (source Inside Costa Rica)
Update 17:06 UTC :
- Banks : Only windows etc. are reported damaged to banks etc. but no problems with money according to most banks. Some remain closed as a precaution.
- We fear for the reported landslides (overflight). Landslides can generate a lot of victims during earthquakes.
Update 17:03 UTC :
- Supercompro Supermarkets in Nicoya, Heredia, Alajuela and Jaco, and the Orotina Hypermarket remain closed, as between 60% and 80% of the products fell from shelves. In some cases there were some fallen shelves but other than that, major structural damage was averted.
- Monsignor Sanabria Hospital, Puntarenas suffered structural damage after the quake. “After today’s earthquake, some hospitals like Puntarenas is damaged and therefore the authorities are concentrated in CEDESO national command center to analyze the situation and define the actions,”. According to reports the correspondent in the area, which suffered structural damage on the building ranging from the third to the seventh floor. Evacuees are on the side of road and the most serious in a rehabilitation center in front of the hospital that was not damaged. At about 10 am the Fire Department began an inspection to determine damages to the building. For now, there are visible cracks in walls, a portion of the wall collapsed on the fifth floor and damage to windows and stairs.
- Reports of the Guanacaste province are mentioning cracked streets, landslides and areas without electricity after a flight over the area.
- The gangpath that provides ferry service between Puntarenas and Paquera has some damage. There are cracks in the road about five feet before the ramp that leads to the boat, in Paquera and in addition some rockfalls.
- Meanwhile, some tourists began to leave the Pacific hotels staying at the hotel Barceló Tambor in Paquera. There are reports that some rooms were damaged. There are cracked walls and broken glass.
- There is very little damage on the roads around Costa Rica. A metal bridge however collapsed over the Sucio river in Sarapiquí.
Update : The Nicoya peninsula, where today’s epicenter was located, has been lifted for more than a meter because of today’s earthquake. This is normal as the peninsula was pulled down about the same amount during the last 60 years.
Update : Tourists will unmistakably have been confronted with this earthquake. Not alone is Costa Rica a touristic country, but the epicenter is close to the Palo Verde National Park
Update 16:42 UTC :
- In Nandayure, a town near the epicenter, people report that the church tower fell down.
- Nicoya has cracked streets.
UPDATE:- Classes have been cancelled in many schools. Banks and other financial institutions reported closures and service cuts following the earthquake this morning in Guanacaste.
UPDATE:- Correspondents of The Nation, Costa Rica’s main newspaper reported structural damage to buildings, trade and some public works, mainly in the Guanacaste coastal region. In the capital, San Jose, there were people who evacuated the main public buildings, scenes of panic and suspension of services by temporary closure of some institutions and businesses.
In Puntarenas, a city closer to the epicenter, there is no electricity and Monsignor Sanabria hospital was evacuated for a structural review, which has visible signs of damage.
UPDATE:- Some damage reports are coming in through twitter:- “The floor in my sister’s house in Montezuma Guanacaste is lifted up”. “Movistar network is down, ICE [Costa Rican Institute of Electricity] works partially.”
There are reports of cut electric service, tile roofs collapsing, and damages to floors and walls. A few electricity poles are also said to have collapsed in various locations around Costa Rica, including San Jose.
Two minor injuries in the Barceló Tambor, during the strong earthquake this morning, was reported by the Mayor of Paquera, Alcides Gonzalez.
UPDATE:- Costa Rica – Hotel Punta Islita – has reported no damage, near the beach of Samara.
UPDATE:- The CNE is meeting at the moment. (The Costa Rica National Emergency Service Team).
In the historical earthquakes in CATDAT, damaging earthquakes have hit the region of Guanacaste, in particular Nicoya in the following years:- 1827, 1853, 1863, 1900, 1905, 1916, (1939), 1950, 1978, 1990. Liquefaction and Landslides characterise some of these earthquakes, and the rural nature of building styles has caused damage in the past.
Costa Rica has a very good building code for seismic resistance, with modern buildings having some of the strictest measures in the world.
UPDATE:- Sámara, is a town directly at the epicenter situated along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The town is rather small (approximately 1500 full-time residents, including close-by towns such as Torito and Cantarrana) with its main street leading directly to the beach. Nicoya is the main city in the region with about 25000 inhabitants in total in the canton. The towns are built in old colonial style, and given the earthquake history have not been impacted upon an earthquake of this size in at least 60 years or more.
UPDATE:- There are reports of damage to infrastructure in different cantons of Guanacaste. It is not yet known whether a tsunami has been triggered.
UPDATE:- It has been felt intensity VII and VIII outside of the epicentral region indicating major damage in the epicentral region. The values of VIII in San Jose registered are not expected and are probably outliers. It was felt in Nicaragua and other countries in Central America.
UPDATE:- The earthquake was most felt in Samara in Guanacaste. We have a local magnitude of 6.7 at a depth of 6km which will cause major damage in the epicentral area. 13 km al Suroeste de CANGREJAL de Nicoya de Guanacaste.
UPDATE:- Tsunami Alert : Costa Rica, Panamá, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, México, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala y Perú.
A major earthquake has hit mainland Costa Rica with an initial magnitude of M7.6.
The Costa Rica seismology agency is currently down. Electricity and telecommunications were down in San Jose.
The earthquake has been registered with M7.9 from local sources, but offshore.
This is a potentially very damaging earthquake and there is a tsunami warning, given the difference in locations.
A M6.9 earthquake struck near here in 1978, causing zero deaths.
At least 500,000 people live in the near epicentral area with damaging intensities.
Twitter reports from Costa Rica:- “100km from us – shook the whole house, lasted a full minute. Crazy”
Most important Earthquake Data:
Magnitude : M7.6 (USGS), Mw 7.5 (GEOFON)
UTC Time : 14:42:10 UTC, 5th September, 2012.
Local time at epicenter : 08:42:10, 5th September, 2012.
Depth (Hypocenter) : 46km (USGS), 35km
Geo-location(s) : 10km from Hochancha
|EMSC||Costa Rica||Sep 05 22:46 PM||4.6||37||MAP I Felt It|
|USGS||Costa Rica||Sep 05 22:46 PM||4.6||37||MAP I Felt It|
|GEOFON||Off Coast Of Costa Rica||Sep 05 22:46 PM||4.5||37||MAP I Felt It|
|EMSC||Costa Rica||Sep 05 22:11 PM||4.5||25||MAP I Felt It|
|USGS||Costa Rica||Sep 05 22:11 PM||4.5||35||MAP I Felt It|
|GEOFON||Off Coast Of Costa Rica||Sep 05 22:11 PM||4.4||30||MAP I Felt It|
|USGS||Off The Coast Of Costa Rica||Sep 05 15:58 PM||4.4||21||MAP I Felt It|
|EMSC||Off Coast Of Costa Rica||Sep 05 15:58 PM||4.5||22||MAP I Felt It|
|EMSC||Costa Rica||Sep 05 15:12 PM||4.4||10||MAP I Felt It|
|USGS||Costa Rica||Sep 05 15:12 PM||4.5||35||MAP I Felt It|
|GEOFON||Costa Rica||Sep 05 15:12 PM||5.0||34||MAP I Felt It|
|EMSC||Costa Rica||Sep 05 14:42 PM||7.6||40||MAP I Felt It|
|USGS||Costa Rica||Sep 05 14:42 PM||7.6||40||MAP I Felt It|
|USGS||Off The Coast Of Costa Rica||Sep 05 14:42 PM||7.9||20||MAP I Felt It|
|GEOFON||Costa Rica||Sep 05 14:42 PM||7.6||35||MAP I Felt It|
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