Disasters & Accidents

Landslide-hit Ecuadorian ‘magic’ town overcome by anguish, indignation

Alausi, Ecuador, Mar 28 (EFE).- Alausi, the second destination to be included in Ecuador’s Magic Towns program, finds itself overcome by sadness and anguish in the wake of a massive landslide that thus far has left eight dead and 64 missing.

But those emotions also are accompanied by growing indignation among local residents, who say authorities failed to heed their warnings about large fault lines in the area in the lead-up to the rain-triggered natural disaster.

Alausi, an Andean community in central Ecuador known for its railroad and its natural, cultural, archaeological, architectural and intangible religious heritage, is struggling to cope with the tragedy while also racing against time to find survivors amid thousands of tons of mud and debris.

Trees and houses were swept away in Sunday night’s natural disaster, and even large structures like the local stadium and a six-story building were left partially or completely covered in mud and rocks.

It remains unclear how many people may have been buried inside their own homes because it is not known how many chose to evacuate amid warnings that the mountainside might give way.

The most recent body discovered was that of the daughter of local resident Saul Naula, a girl whom rescue workers found on Tuesday.

With more resignation than hope, Naula had told Efe Tuesday morning he was still trying to locate his two daughters, saying they had been with his brother-in-law and his niece at the time of the tragedy.

“We’ve been here since yesterday, but we haven’t gotten anywhere,” he said at a site where heavy machinery was being used to clear away tons of mud and debris.

“Let’s hope that we can find them now to give them a burial like they deserve. Thanks to the machine that’s helping with the search, we’re hopeful of finding them.”

Although the death toll currently stands at eight, that tally could climb much higher considering dozens remain missing.

Twenty-three others were injured, according to Ecuador’s Risk Management Secretariat (SNGR), which said 163 homes, 500 people and 60 percent of the potable water service were affected by the disaster.

A total of 32 people were rescued alive.

The landslide also affected a rail line that runs to Nariz del Diablo, one of South America’s most emblematic rail destinations.

Amid the suffering and sadness, local residents say they had brought attention to the fault lines and even recently staged a demonstration to demand action from authorities.

They then voiced their indignation on Monday during a visit to the community by President Guillermo Lasso, who was greeted by some boos and whistles.

In videos uploaded to social media, large and deep fault lines are visible in a road running through the area and even in nearby farmland, presaging the massive landslide that was about to occur.

The SNGR, for its part, said it had sent a technical report on March 11 to the governor of Chimborazo province and Alausi’s mayor recommending the evacuation of the local population and other measures.

Local authorities toured the area on the day of the tragedy to inspect the cracks and alert local residents of the danger of a landslide, which buried the town after nightfall. EFE


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