Sixaola border crossing just after 1991 Limon Earthquake. Photo courtesy of Clive Graham
Sixaola border crossing just after 1991 Limon Earthquake. Photo courtesy of Clive Graham

We're all still a little shaken after this week's earthquake, but fortunately, there doesn't seem to have been much damage and very few people were hurt. Sadly, this wasn't the case back in 1991, when another powerful tremor shook the country, causing widespread damage and casualties. Although the quake was a little before my time - I wasn't even a tadpole back then! - some of the locals remember it well.

The fury of nature

At around 4 p.m. on April 22, 1991, Costa Rica was hit by a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter Scale. The epicenter of the tremor was located in Pandora, in the province of Limon on Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast. The quake was felt as far away as western Panama, and sadly, at least 47 people were killed. Unlike the temblor that shook Costa Rica earlier this week, the quake in 1991 created several tsunamis, with waves almost six feet high in some areas. These mighty waves crashed into the coastline, damaging local businesses and homes along the coast.

The aftermath of the quake

The 1991 quake caused approximately $43 million in damages, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and more than 7,000 people were left homeless. Roads all over the country were destroyed by the quake, including the highway from Limon to Sixaola, and some took many months to rebuild. Several bridges, including the Rio Estrella Highway Bridge, were completely destroyed. The much of the railroad system especially to Limon was destroyed in the Limon Earthquake and the cost was just too much to repair. Just like the quake earlier this week, strong aftershocks were reported for several days following the main tremor.

A painful memory

The earthquake in 1991 was much more destructive than the one that shook the country earlier this week, but what made the quake in '91 even worse was the fact that, at the time, Costa Rica was still recovering from yet another tremor that hit in 1990. The epicenter of the quake was the Gulf of Nicoya. This temblor wasn't quite as destructive as the one that would strike one year later, but it did extensive damage to around 60 buildings in the San Jose area and other parts of Puntarenas.

Costa Rica isn't affected by earthquakes as much as some other countries, but these frightening events serve as potent reminders of the destructive power of nature. 

Limon to Cahuita road just after 1991 Limon Earthquake. Photo courtesy of Clive Graham
Limon to Cahuita road just after 1991 Limon Earthquake. Photo courtesy of Clive Graham
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