Ecuador: 7 people killed in landslide, 46 missing

At least 46 people are missing and seven others have died in landslides triggered by heavy rains overnight from Sunday to Monday in southern Ecuador.

Several dozen houses were buried in the area of ​​Alausi in Chimborazo province, about 300 km south of Quito, in the Andean region hit by an earthquake last week that killed 15 people, including one in neighboring Peru .

Ecuadorean officials said in a new report on Monday that 46 people were missing, seven were killed and 23 were injured in the landslide. The first official report reported 16 dead and seven missing.

A total of about 500 people were affected by the flow in a neighborhood clinging to a mountain on the northeastern outskirts of the city.

“We are on the street, nine members of my family have been killed. They are buried,” said a victim named Luis Gonzales, who was interviewed by a local TV channel in tears. The man continued to search for his sister in the rubble without any hope, as he was told that “everything is covered”.

An aerial view of a landslide in Alausi, Ecuador, on March 27, 2023 (AFP – Marcos Pin)

Photos broadcast by local media showed dozens of rescuers and civilians trying to pull people out from under the rubble, ambulances flashing lights and sirens wailing.

A massive brown mud slide came suddenly from the lush mountains that surround Alausi, home to some 45,000 people. Survivors in the disaster area were in tears and with teary-eyed faces waiting for news of their loved ones missing.

– “Devil’s Nose” –

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso responded on Twitter, saying, “The government is fully active, focusing on the Alausi tragedy.”

The area where the tragedy occurred had been on “yellow alert” since February for the risk of landslides, as severe weather had hit the area in recent weeks.

Authorities also warned of a possible collapse of the E35 road in the casualty sector, where part of the mountain had collapsed.

An aerial view of a landslide in Alausi, Ecuador, on March 27, 2023 (AFP - Marcos Pin)
An aerial view of a landslide in Alausi, Ecuador, on March 27, 2023 (AFP – Marcos Pin)

Chimborazo’s governor’s office said it was setting up food collection centers to help those affected. The armed forces participate in relief operations and in the transportation of materials for the construction of temporary shelters.

For its part, the local Red Cross provided “pre-hospital care” to the victims. Residents of nearby villages also reached early in the morning to assist in the rescue operation.

The city of Alausi is known worldwide for the “Devil’s Nose”, a steep escarpment through which passes Ecuador’s Trans-Andean Railway line, called the “world’s most difficult train” because of its dangerousness.

Heavy rains in the country since January have left 22 people dead and 346 homeless. Officials said more than 6,900 homes were damaged and 72 were destroyed. About 987 incidents were caused by severe weather, such as floods and landslides.

In February, rain caused crude pumping to be halted for five days after a bridge collapsed at risk of a pipeline burst.

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