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Costa Rica's earthquake death toll mounts; many still missing or stranded

January 9, 2009 |  1:43 pm

A snapshot of Costa Rica's Poas volcano and the surrounding countryside, taken by a visitor last January.

As feared, the death toll in the aftermath of Thursday's magnitude 6.1 earthquake has grown. The Red Cross is confirming at least nine fatalities related to the earthquake, which was centered about 20 miles northwest of the capital city of San Jose and near Poas Volcano National Park.

However, Costa Rica's Tico Times is reporting 17 casualties, and the BBC is reporting at least 14 fatalities, with many people missing or stranded.

The Tico Times lists the number of people stranded at more than 1,000. Allan Flores, head of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute, told a TV news station that 200 tourists and residents were trapped at La Paz Waterfall Gardens Hotel, a luxury resort in Vara Blanca.

Red Cross spokeswoman Fiorella Vilca told the Associated Press the dead include 7- and 11-year-old sisters buried in a landslide, a 12-year-old girl whose home was crushed by falling earth, two men found dead in San Pedro de Poas and three bodies found in a battered truck near the Angel waterfall popular with tourists. One more victim died of a heart attack in San Jose.

The government, naturally, has declared a state of emergency. For what little it's worth, Outposts expresses deepest sympathy to all persons affected. Costa Rica is a special place with special people and will remain so despite this terrible tragedy.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: A snapshot of Costa Rica's Poas volcano and the surrounding countryside, taken by a visitor last January. Credit: Dan Culbert

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