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In Ecuador, at least seven dead and forty-six missing in a landslide


According to the latest official report published Monday, March 27, seven people died and forty-six are missing in a landslide caused in southern Ecuador by heavy rains overnight from Sunday to Monday. In addition, twenty-three people are injured.

Several dozen houses were buried in the locality of Alausi, in the province of Chimborazo, about 300 km south of Quito, in an Andean area hit last week by an earthquake that left fifteen dead, including one in neighboring Peru. Nearly 500 people in total were affected by the flow, on a neighborhood clinging to the mountain in the northeastern outskirts of the city.

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

Risks identified by a “yellow alert”

Images broadcast by local media showed dozens of rescuers and civilians bustling around the debris to try to free buried people, in a ballet of ambulances with flashing lights and screaming sirens.

A massive brownish mudslide suddenly descended from the verdant mountains that surround Alausi, home to some 45,000 people. In the disaster area, survivors in tears and with tearful faces waited for news of their missing loved ones.

“The government is fully active, focused on the Alausi tragedy”, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso reacted on Twitterensuring that firefighters had been on the job since the early hours of the morning “to come to the aid of the disaster-stricken citizens”.

Rescue team members and residents in action after a landslide in Alausi, Ecuador, on March 27, 2023.

The area where the tragedy occurred was in “yellow alert” since February for the risk of landslides, due to the severe weather affecting the region in recent weeks. The authorities had also warned of a possible collapse of the E35 road in the Casual sector, where part of the mountain had broken away.

“Devil’s Nose”

The Chimborazo governor’s office said it was preparing food collection centers to help those affected. The armed forces take part in relief operations and in the transport of material to build temporary shelters. For its part, the local Red Cross provided “pre-hospital care” to the victims. Residents of nearby villages also arrived in the early hours of the morning to assist in the rescue operations.

Read also: Ecuador: Quito flood toll rises to 28 dead and 52 injured

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

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Since January, heavy rains have already left twenty-two dead and 346 homeless in the country. More than 6,900 homes were damaged and 72 were destroyed, authorities said. Some 987 incidents were caused by bad weather, such as floods and landslides. In February, rains led to a five-day suspension of crude oil pumping as a pipeline threatened to burst after a bridge collapsed.

The World with AFP