Costa Rica landslide kills 15, a dozen missing

Dozens of rescuers search for survivors after two days of heavy rains

By Marianela Jimenez
Published November 4, 2010 6:52PM (EDT)

A rain-sodden hillside collapsed on homes in a suburb of Costa Rica's capital early Thursday, killing at least 15 people and leaving at least a dozen missing, according to rescue officials.

Dozens of rescuers, some using dogs, were searching for survivors. But so far they had found only corpses, including the body of a child, according to Hector Blanco, a Red Cross spokesman. They have not yet been identified.

At least 15 bodies were pulled out the rubble by midmorning and a similar number was believed to be missing, said firefighter Javier Castro.

The landslide in San Antonio followed two days of heavy rains that flooded a river near the town and sent nearly 600 people to shelters in nearby San Jose. The area received 6.3 inches (161 millimeters) of rain in just two hours Wednesday, according to Costa Rica's Meteorological Institute.

Rodrigo Araya, born and raised in San Antonio, about 10 miles from San Jose, said he awoke to what sounded like a plane landing.

"You could hear people asking for help but could not see anything," said Araya, 50.

"I know 20 families lived there together. Some were very poor and had settled near the banks of the river," said Flory Quintero, who lives nearby. "When it happened, it sounded like a turbine."

The outlook Thursday was bleak: the road was covered with stones and branches swept by the currents, Blanco said. There were piles of boulders 10 feet (3 meters) high.

Relatives arrived with shovels to help but most were turned away because of the danger of another landslide.

Schools were closed across Costa Rica. Many roads were flooded or blocked by landslides, especially in the central Pacific region, which received more than 13 inches of rain (335 millimeters) Wednesday.

Marianela Jimenez

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