latin america

Calm returns to Nicaragua after a chain of strong earthquakes rocks capital

A team of international experts in Managua wants to determine what sparked the tremors

People in Managua sleep outdoors, in accordance with the government's request.
People in Managua sleep outdoors, in accordance with the government's request.REUTERS

Calm returned to Nicaragua on Tuesday after the entire nation was put on alert following a series of strong earthquakes that rocked the capital and the surrounding central regions for four days.

At least two deaths and 42 injuries were reported in the province after four earthquakes – one measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale – and about 1,000 strong aftershocks that began on Thursday sent thousands of Managua residents fleeing from their homes.

Nicaraguan civil defense authorities counted 2,378 homes damaged during the disaster.

The government issued an emergency alert on Sunday after scientists reported unusual seismic activity where the Coco and Caribbean crustal plates join underneath Nicaragua’s surface. In 1972, more than 10,000 people were killed and 20,000 others injured when a strong earthquake devastated Managua. The quake was blamed on the crustal plates’ movements.

Television stations on Tuesday showed dozens of Managua residents returning to their homes and clearing up after the damage. The entire capital was empty as businesses were closed and many workers decided to take advantage of the government’s emergency alert and push up their long Easter weekend holiday.

Trying not to instill panic, government officials had warned people to remain outdoors and not to sleep inside their homes.

Government officials had warned people to remain outdoors and not to sleep inside their homes

“At the entrance to my home, I have a backpack filled with clothes and other things waiting. The tank in my car is full. We’re not panicky, just nervous,” said Juan, a lawyer, after he filled up at a gas station in Managua.

In the few supermarkets that were open, shoppers were stocking up on basic essentials.

The government set up temporary shelters throughout the capital and in nearby cities where more than 1,600 sought refuge, according to first lady Rosario Murillo, who also serves as her husband’s official spokesman.

President Daniel Ortega did not appear in public during the emergency, setting off waves of criticism from the opposition. “The country is being run by a ventriloquist,” wrote noted journalist Carlos Fernando Chamarro on his Twitter account. “Why is he so quiet?”

The Sandinista government said that it welcomes a team of experts from Germany, Cuba, the United States, Japan, Mexico and Venezuela to determine the exact causes of the seismic activity.

US missionary’s body found

The body of a 37-year-old missionary from the United States was found on a beach in Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, authorities said on Wednesday.

Karen Colclough, who was reported missing on Friday, was apparently abused before she was strangled, the Managua daily El Nuevo Diario reported, quoting a source close to the investigation.

Her body was found dumped on the beach near the community of Montelimar, San Rafael del Sur municipality, in Managua department, according to the US Embassy in Managua.

Authorities have no clues surrounding her death.

Colclough was a member of the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and had come to Nicaragua as part of a religious mission.

"We are asking people to keep the family in prayer — mother, father, brother," Rev. Paul Hayden of the church told the Jackson Hole News & Guide daily. "This is going to be a very difficult time."