Close to Home: Ecuador’s Devastating Earthquake

As most of you have heard, Ecuador suffered a devastating earthquake on the evening of Saturday April 16, 2016. First, I want to assure everyone that my family is fine along with all of our friends and acquaintances here in Cotacachi. We are all safe and sound and didn’t suffer any property damage. Now, on to the details.

The 7.8 quake hit at around  7 p.m. and was centered just off the northern coast of Ecuador near the town of Muisne. I grew up in Alaska and have experienced plenty of earthquakes, but this was the strongest and longest quake I’ve ever been in.

At the time our family was out at our farm in Intag which is located approximately 100 miles away from the epicenter. Luckily we were in our shipping container house at the time so even though we were shaking and rattling we had no fear of our house collapsing around us so it wasn’t overly frightening. Of course we knew that we were lucky and that not everyone would escape unscathed.

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Sadly, much of Ecuador’s coast has sustained substantial damage. Because so many of the buildings here are concrete construction they don’t have much flexibility when the earth starts moving beneath them and they collapse or become dangerously damaged. A severe rainy season (thanks to El Niño) had already loosened up much of the soil in that region and when the quake hit it caused severe landslides which blocked many of the roads.

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Due to the landslides, cracked roads, and broken bridges it has been slow going as far as getting heavy equipment and life-saving supplies into the affected areas. Crews are on the ground working as hard as they can, but they have limited resources at the moment.

Priority seems to be going to the three main cities that were affected: Pedernales, Portoviejo, and Manta. But reports are coming in that some relief is finally making it to the smaller fishing villages along the coast. Currently over 480 people are confirmed dead, but no doubt that number will rise as rescue crews are able to access more areas.

The beautiful tourist town of Canoa is said to have 90% of its buildings rendered unusable. Bahia de Caraquez (where we lived for several months in 2012) sustained damage to 80% of the structures there. Electricity is out and internet and cell phone service is spotty at best in these areas.

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It’s tough to know that so many people are without homes, with limited food and drinking water, and in need of help. Many of us feel helpless to do anything useful. Organized rescue crews are on the scene, but it’s not advised that individual untrained people rush to the coast to help as it often creates more problems than solutions.

But I can do a few things. Yesterday the boys and I gathered up clothing and bought supplies to send down to the coast. Our local municipality was taking donations and we were able to drop off our items there. I’m hoping to get to Ibarra soon to donate blood at the Red Cross office there. And I can raise awareness about the situation here on my blog.

If you’re interested in helping too please consider donating to one of the following agencies or to any other well-researched aide group who is helping the victims of this earthquake.

Red Cross – This is one of the main agencies that is sending aid and volunteers to the affected areas of the coast. They are well-trained in emergency response and operate as a fairly well-oiled machine.

Unicef – Unicef has been providing water purification tablets to the affected area and is helping with hygiene issues. Clean drinking water is an urgent and sorely needed necessity right now and is one of the most requested items by rescue groups.

CARE – This organization is helping provide food, water, and shelter for victims of this earthquake. Many people lost their homes and all they had on Saturday. They have no shelter and do not know where their next meal or drink of water will come from. CARE is just one of the many agencies attempting to ease the suffering.

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