Upala, the victim of Hurricane Otto, prepares for another extreme event

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The canton of Upala, Alajuela, declared a red alert this Thursday, is preparing with shelters and a sound alarm, before the advance of the atmospheric phenomenon that could become tropical storm Bonnie. Although no damages have been reported at the moment, the local emergency committee deploys these preventive actions so as not to relive the harsh memories left by Hurricane Otto in 2016.

According to Luis Diego Coronado, press officer of the municipality of Upala, for three days since the alert of a possible cyclone and tropical wave number 13 was issued, the municipal committee requested inputs from the National Risk Attention Commission. and Emergency Prevention (CNE) such as blankets, mats, cleaning supplies, food, among others.

At the moment, the Alajuelense canton has more than 20 shelters ready in case of a possible risk, the call made by the committee is for people to voluntarily move to the homes of relatives or friends in other regions, if they know that their community is commonly flooded .

“We have shelters identified but not enabled, the idea is that they be equipped with these materials and supplies, especially due to the experience of previous years in Upala with Hurricane Otto, the eight districts of the canton are quite far away, so preventively they are taking these measures”.

Another of the forecasts that the canton launched is an electronic sensor that was installed after Otto, the device measures the flow and rise of the Zapote River and is monitored by means of a computer and a cell phone, in addition, it emits a sound alert that is heard throughout the central district of Upala, accompanied by a siren with the message ‘flood alert’.

“People know and know about the monitoring system that alerts them to bring their furniture and appliances up, even the alert can sound up to four or eight hours before the emergency, however, the commission has already informed the population through loudspeakers and social networks, regarding the fact that we are on a red alert and people have to start mobilizing,” he added.

According to the CNE there are no damages in this canton, but there is a declaration of red alert, along with other cantons such as Liberia, La Cruz, Los Chiles, Guatuso, San Carlos, Río Cuarto, Sarapiquí, Guácimo, Pococí, Siquirres and Matina, that they would suffer the blows of Bonnie.

What does the red alert mean?

This status is determined when there is a threat of great size and severity, which requires the mobilization of resources for emergency care. Before its declaration, it is recommended to activate the pre-established alarms, evacuate and insure the affected population and put into practice the emergency plans in the home, work office or commercial establishments.

Five years ago

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With the passage of Hurricane Otto on November 24, 2016, the canton of Upala was one of the most affected, in that emergency there were six fatalities between one year and 59 years old, 2,345 people were treated in 17 formal shelters and others 339 received care in 10 informal shelters.

Losses of ¢30.658 million were even reported to the agricultural sector caused by the passage of Hurricane Otto in the cantons included in the emergency decree of the Huetar Norte (where Upala is located), Huetar Caribe, Chorotega and Brunca (south) regions.

Since 2003, the CNE would have warned about the floods in the northern canton, precisely in 2016, when Juan Bosco Acevedo held the position of mayor of Upala, received at least five technical guidelines on how to prevent and deal with emergencies to reduce the risk of death and damage in his canton, notices that he ignored.

Of a population of 42,000 inhabitants, only a little more than 1,600 people took shelter in shelters. Most arrived after the tragedy. The people reacted late. The mayor, Juan Bosco Acevedo, as president of the local emergency committee, preferred not to alarm the population with the subject of the hurricane, which meant that the phenomenon literally found the residents of Upala sleeping.

“I want to be very clear to you; I recorded, they recorded a video where I ask people to evacuate because if you speak ahead of time, if you alarm, people are alarmed, and if something doesn’t happen, people blame you for alarming”, said the mayor in an interview with this newspaper, two weeks after the impact of Otto in 2016.

Deceased in Upala by Hurricane Otto

-Israel Zúñiga Picado, 11 years old

-Maria Isabel Picado Castro, 38 years old

-Vanessa Argüello Castro, 30 years old

-Bianca Pichardo Argüello, 1 year and eight months

-Dilan Mauricio Cheves Guerra, 8 months

-Juana Maria Francisca Guerrero Aguero, 59 years old

Tropical Storm Bonnie

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Back in 2022, Werner Stolz, director of the National Meteorological Institute (IMN), stated that the main impact will be due to the rains that tropical storm Bonnie may leave in its wake between Friday and Saturday, since in 18 hours all the rain will fall from one month. The most severe effects are expected, at the moment, in the north and the Caribbean, but the influence of the phenomenon is expected throughout the country.

It is not ruled out that it could directly hit the northern part of our country, with a trajectory very similar to that of Hurricane Otto in November 2016.

“It is estimated that at noon on Friday the first bands associated with a sector very close to Barra del Colorado (Pococí) would be arriving, and could even be above the bars. According to the forecast, it will move over the entire border with Nicaragua and will leave for the Pacific at noon on Saturday,” said the scientist.

This afternoon, members of the Fire Department toured the northern area to alert neighbors and prepare them for the arrival of a possible emergency.