Recent heavy rain sent a massive landslide crashing down on a small community in Ecuador, killing at least seven people and leaving 64 still missing as of Tuesday.
Early Monday, a large torrent of mud, rocks and other debris swept over the village of Alausi in Ecuador’s Andean region in the central part of the country, about 140 miles south of the capital, Quito.
The landslide, estimated at nearly a half mile long, plunged down the hilly terrain burying dozens of homes, trees and other buildings, trapping many villagers and injuring more than 20 people, according to Ecuador’s Risk Management Secretariat. The initial death toll was placed at 16, but that figure was revised later on Monday.
President Guillermo Lasso visited the scene of the disaster Monday night as hundreds of emergency crews worked frantically to search for survivors. So far, more than 30 people have been rescued from under the landslide, according to the agency.
Lasso said he saw “first-hand the search-and-rescue work being carried out by experts” and assured the community that the rescue efforts would go on “as long as is necessary.”
Paramedic Alberto Escobar told The Associated Press it was unlikely more survivors would be found because of the time that had elapsed but that the search would continue unless it rained.
There is a “buildup of tons and tons of earth,” making it difficult to find survivors, Fernando Yanza, a firefighter working to rescue those trapped, told AFP. The buildup of earth “takes away the small amount of space for oxygen,” he added.
“My mother is buried” under the mud, Luis Ángel González, 58, told the AP. “I am so sad, devastated. There is nothing here, no houses, no anything. We are homeless (and) without family.”
Area residents said they heard tremors on the mountain before the landslide, which was triggered by heavy downpours in the region over the past several days.
Many residents, in addition to those who had lost their homes, were ordered to evacuate, and temporary shelters were set up to assist those displaced by the disaster.
“We went to the shelter, but my mother didn’t want to,” Sonia Guadalupe Zuña told the AP. “Later, my daughter went to convince her. When they walked along the rails, everything collapsed. They arrived covered in dirt and crying.”
Overall, about 500 people were impacted by the landslide, which also destroyed part of the Pan-American Highway. Officials said about 60% of the local water service was also affected.
The deadly landslide comes a week after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake killed 16 people in southern Ecuador and northern Peru.
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