Introduction and Background:
Costa Rica is prone to geologic hazards. The country stands on the Pacific Ring. This ring is responsible in part of the seismic activity along the border of the Pacific Ocean. Many active volcanoes also occupy the small country, and faults, both active and ancient, weave through the country. The earthquake that occurred in Costa Rica in 2009 was a very good size. In fact, it is one of the most powerful earthquakes that have taken place in Costa Rica in the last 150 years.The magnitude was a 6.1. This earthquake occurred on Thursday January 8, 2009 at 1:21:34 PM local time. The location was 10.197 N degrees and 84.159 W degrees. The distances were twenty miles North-Northwest of San Jose Costa Rica, fifty miles East-Northeast of Puntarenas Costa Rica, seventy-five miles Southeast of San Carlos Nicaragua, and eleven hundred miles South-Southwest of Miami Florida. The epicenter was in a relatively populated region about thirty-five kilometers northwest of the capital San Jose, and the hypo-center was just 4.5 kilometers below the surface, a dept shallow enough to ensure strong shaking at the surface. The earthquake was centered near two very active volcanoes, Poas and Irazu. It did not occur along any known fault, however, it did occur within the Caribean plate
. The earthquake was caused by the build up of pressure from the subduction of the Coco's plate, part of the Eastern-Pacific Ocean, under the Caribbean plate. The Caribbean and Coco’s plate had a strike-slip mechanism due to the release of the stresses that were built up in the Caribbean plate's crust while Coco's plate was subducted under it. Both plates converge at a rate of 75 millimeters per year. This puts pressure on the Caribbean plate which then forms the mountains and volcanoes. Aftershocks were still felt an hour and a half after the initial shock and totaled to about more than a thousand in a period of two weeks. As this subduction zone has been tectonically active for years on end we have seen this area produce magnitude 6 to magnitude 7.7 earthquakes. These earthquakes have destroyed thousands of buildings and killed many. Beyond the historical time line of this tectonically active area there has been a more recent even in current history at could have been a precursor for the devastating earthquake in 2009. The example given was a 7.7 magnitude earthquake in 2001 just southwest of San Miguel, El Salvador that killed over 800 people and damaged well over 150,000 buildings, events such as these weaken the infrastructure of the area causing much more devastating events.
Shake map of Costa Rica 2009
Shake map of Costa Rica 2009
On January 14, 2009, there were fifteen people dead, twenty-three still missing and a hundred were injured. Now all the tallies are up to date. There are now a total of thirty-three people dead, the majority cause by landslides, seven people missing, about twenty-three hundred people that have been scattered because of their ruined homes, ninety-one seriously injured people, and two hundred and sixty-seven single family dwellings damaged. Out of the two hundred and sixty-seven homes in San Jose, two hundred and fifty-one were destroyed. About 200 tourists were trapped in La Paz Waterfall Garden Hotel, in the city of Vara Blanca.
United States Involvement:
The US lost a great amount of money in this disaster. The United States and Costa Rica have been involved in each other’s business for a long time. Both countries agree on: democratic government, human freedoms, free trade, and have other shared values. Costa Rica's most important trading partner is The United States. Surprisingly, most of Costa Rica's imports, exports, more than two-thirds of their foreign investment, and tourism is due to the United States. Because Costa Rica is so pure and has amazing tropical life, both countries work hard in preserving all of the wildlife. "In 2007, the United States reduced Costa Rica's debt in exchange for protection and conservation of Costa Rican forests through a debt for nature swap under the auspices of the Tropical Forest Conservation Act" ( In about a hundred and eighty square kilometers, the US lost close to a hundred million dollars. The United States have put in so much money into preserving the environment in Costa Rica that because of all the damage, they lost a lot of what they were fighting for. Since the United States and Costa Rica have been such good "friends", the US sent a military disaster relief team to help the devastated country of Costa Rica. Thirty-four service members and four helicopters were sent to Costa Rica. " During operations from Jan. 10–12 in the vicinity of San Miguel, the U.S. helicopter crews flew 39 missions, evacuating 90 people, including two wounded victims, and transporting 154 rescue workers to and from disaster sites" ( The United States spent almost three-hundred and fifty thousand dollars on relief aid for the damage of this 6.1 earthquake.

Shelters and Help:
Twenty-five shelters were made so they could help about thirty-eight hundred people who had lost their homes. Almost twenty-five percent of those people were children. The shelters provided health, shelter, water, food, protection and sanitation for these people. Close to a thousand families had to be relocated because of the damage this earthquake caused. A lot of families did not want to have to relocate because so many of their ancestors have lived on the land for generations. Several weeks after the earthquake the Ministry of Housing and the Institute for Social Welfare determined to come up with longer term solutions to assist people who lost their homes during the earthquake and for those who have any type of structure standing on seismically unstable locations. It was finally proposed that about 200 families had to move to four temporary shelter locations. These shelters had homes made of wood constructed by the association called Un Techo Para Mi Pais (A Roof for my Country). It was expected for people to be at the shelters from three to six months, which was the estimated time for finding permanent housing solutions. The government also sought to help 500 families to repair or reconstruct their homes, by giving them grants and to help local private organizations that chose to help 100 of the most affected families by buying land to reconstruct their homes.There were many buildings in San Jose that were damaged. People actually caught some footage of the building windows and walls cracking. There were two critical lifelines that failed. One of them was the hydroelectric power station. This station was located within ten kilometers of the epicenter. This hydroelectric station is a system of many reservoirs that work together to generate about one hundred MW and was operated by the state-run power company. About ten percent of the energy produced in the nation was ruined by the earthquake. The mudflow from the earthquake flooded the area, it reached of two meters in many locations. The other lifeline that was taken out was Route one hundred and twenty-six. This is a national railroad which crosses the epicenter from north to south. The train went through rain forests that were terribly affected. The railroad was used as a international border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. There was another highway that was also used for this purpose. The bridges were very damaged. Only five days after the earthquake, a few smaller bridges were replaced. They were replaced because some of the segments of the highway collapsed due to terrain failure. Three kilometers of the bridge had collapsed and disappeared.
What Caused the Most Damage and Fatalities:
The January earthquake caused many mass movements, specifically landslides and mud flows, which were responsible for most of the damage in Costa Rica. Landslides blocked roads and damaged buildings.These landslides were cause by aftershocks, while the mudflows were caused by persistent rain. Prolonged rainfall also triggered debris flows in river basins, which destroyed temporary bridges impeding entrance to affected communities."Approximately, 225 houses have sustained damages; while 9 bridges collapsed and 25 access roads are partially blocked delaying rescue workers from reach the affected zones. “The tremor also interrupted the electric supply of at least 928 people" (wikispaces)and 20 water systems were also affected. According to the USGS, the majority of the deaths were caused by the landslides. Most of them by burial in debris from the landslides.There were over twenty lives that were taken due to the landslides. These were the majority of the deaths. The two communities that were affected the most by the earthquake were Cinchona and Vara Blanca which are located north of Heredia. The Agricultural sector was also affected. Many crop lands were destroyed by mudflows and rainfall, such as strawberry and coffee plantations, according to the Ministy of Agriculture.The Volcanic National Institute, OVSICORI, states there is no risk for any volcanic activity.

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