The death toll after Costa Rica’s strongest earthquake in decades has risen to 15, with scores missing and injured, while some 150 stranded tourists were finally rescued.
Helicopters picked up some of the tourists, most from the US, France, Canada and Spain, while others scrambled up mountain paths to finally reach rescue workers from near the Poas volcano, the epicenter of Thursday’s 6.1 magnitude quake.
At nightfall about 100 people were still stranded in the region around the capital San Jose, including around 50 in the area of Cinchona, one of the worst hit by the temblor and accessible only by helicopter, the Red Cross said.
Helicopters also evacuated a group of tourists trapped on a parking lot at a hotel near the La Paz waterfalls, a top tourist attraction.
Many on the ground said the official toll of 15 was likely to rise when rescue workers finally reached isolated villages and cars buried by mudslides.
Costa Rica’s Central American neighbors, Colombia, the US and China have offered aid to victims of the quake, President Oscar Arias said on Friday after visiting the worst-hit zones.
“What I saw with my own eyes is that the consequences of the earthquake are worse than I had imagined,” Arias said.
Rescue teams struggled in rain and mist on Friday to reach hundreds stranded in mountainous central zones, as cracked roads, fallen trees and earth impeded their efforts in the farming region home to popular tourist sites.
Collapsed houses lined the road leading to the epicenter of the quake, near the Poas volcano, one of the country’s most popular tourist sites.
Where damage was less visible, many still said they had lost possessions in the quake which also shook water out of swimming pools and was felt across the country and in neighboring Nicaragua.
The strongest quake to shake the country in the last 150 years was followed by aftershocks and collapsed homes in and around the capital.