Disasters & Accidents

Storm slams Ecuadorian towns still digging out after earthquake

By Fernando Arroyo Leon

Quito, Mar 25 (EFE).- Inhabitants of fishing communities on the north end of the Gulf of Guayaquil could be forgiven Saturday for thinking that heaven had turned its back on them as they contended with storm surge and heavy rain a week after the area was rocked by a magnitude-6.8 earthquake.

Located on the islands of Mondragon and Puna, the villages were near the epicenter of a temblor that was felt in the neighboring countries of Peru and Colombia.

Adding to the destruction caused by the quake, waist-high water has inundated homes and other buildings near the shore.

Though the storm has also affected other coastal zones, including Guayaquil, a city of 2.8 million that is Ecuador’s economic capital, the impact has been greater for the people of the gulf islands, traditionally neglected by the government.

The villages are “communities practically abandoned” by the state, Cristian de la Torre, of the National Federation of Fishing Cooperatives, told EFE following a visit to the area.

Residents’ main requests are for the construction of seawalls to protect homes and sanitary landfills, he said, adding that he also heard appeals for immediate food aid and the presence of police or military personnel to ward off “the gulf pirates” who prey on fisher people to steal their catch.

Camilo Marines, a psychologist who works for the local administration in Puna, has also made the rounds of the fishing communities to help the federal government develop plans to assist them.

Besides the physical damage to structures and the landscape, the earthquake left children traumatized and unable to sleep, a woman named Yadira said.

She said that her young daughter found herself trapped in a chicken coup by the quake, which also knocked down one of the walls of their home.

One of her neighbors, Santiaga Chalen, said she continues to experience a sensation of vertigo, as if the ground were still moving.

“When the tremor struck I ran upstairs, but everything collapsed,” she said.

Another resident, Frank Rodriguez, said that communication remains difficult as connectivity remains dependent on electricity, which is available for barely six hours a day.

EFE fa/dr

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