Ecuador: Landslides kill many people

ALAUSI, Ecuador –

A massive landslide swept through an Andes community in central Ecuador, burying dozens of homes, killing at least seven people and sending rescuers frantically searching for survivors, authorities said. on Monday.

Earlier that same day, officials had reported 16 deaths, but President Guillermo Lasso put the confirmed number at seven when he arrived on Monday night at the disaster site in Alausi, some miles from the capital Quito. about 137 miles south. Authorities also raised the number of people reported missing to 62.

Lasso mourned the tragedy and promised the townspeople that “we will continue to work” in the search effort.

Ecuador’s Risk Management Secretariat said more than 30 people were rescued after the mountainside collapsed around 10pm on Sunday. It said 23 people were injured.

“My mother was buried” in the mud, said Luis Angel Gonzalez, 58, who also lost other family members on Sunday. “I’m so sad, devastated. There’s nothing here, no home, nothing. We’re homeless (and) have no family.”

The risk management agency estimated 500 people and 163 homes were affected by the disaster, and partially destroyed the Pan-American Highway.

The governor of Chimborazo province, Ivan Vinueza, told the AP news agency that some of the injured had been taken to hospitals in the area. He said officials had urged residents to evacuate the area after landslides and cracks began to develop about two months ago. Some followed the advice, and by Saturday, as the tremors intensified, others fled.

Residents in the area told local media they heard tremors in the mountains before the landslide, estimated to be 150 meters (490 feet) wide and nearly half a mile (700 meters) long. It washed away trees, houses and other buildings. More than fifty houses were buried under tons of mud.

The emergency response agency said 60% of clean water services in the area were affected by the landslide. The media office of the president’s office said some schools will move to online classes.

Firefighters from half a dozen cities have been sent to the area to help. Rescuers focused on the slopes of the landslide, where they found traces and debris of houses.

Rescue worker and paramedic Alberto Escobar said it was unlikely to find more survivors as time had passed.

He said the search would continue as long as it didn’t rain.

Video from cameras connected to the country’s emergency services network showed people leaving their homes with the help of neighbors. It also shows people transporting equipment and other belongings in the vehicle.

The survivors, many living in makeshift shelters, wept over their misfortune.

Among them is the Zuna family, who are staying at the Iglesia Matriz de Alausi, where catechism classrooms or parish meetings were converted into bunk beds a few days ago after authorities declared a state of emergency in the area due to landslide risk.

Sonia Guadalupe Zuna said her mother did not want to leave what they had built up over the years.

“We went to the shelter, but my mother didn’t want to,” Zuna said. “Then my daughter came to convince her. When they were walking along the tracks, everything fell apart. They arrived, covered in dirt and crying.”

Saving the clothes they wore, Zuna’s family lost everything.

“I don’t know where, but we’re all leaving,” she said, crying. “My parents taught us that by working hard you get material things, but being together is priceless.”


Associated Press writers Gonzalo Solano in Quito, Ecuador and Regina Garcia Cano in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.


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