Ecuadorians searched for food during the days following the earthquake that devastating earthquake that left many in grave danger.
Throughout the phase of crippling effects, most areas remain unstable and many more are in peril–primarily coastal towns flattened by last weekend’s powerful earthquake.
South America’s deadliest earthquake in more than a decade razed entire communities. Many building were destroyed during the quake, including the beach town of Canoa last Saturday. Residents who were camping in temporary housing facilities said that they were praying that it didn’t rain.
A magnitude-6.0 aftershock shook the coast late Thursday, followed by more reverberations that sent people running from the structures left half-standing after the initial quake. Local television stations pictured individuals crying and screaming, but President Rafael Correa tried to convince people that these ramifications were to be expected and that waiting them out is the only option. In Canoa, 98 percent of buildings were destroyed during the original magnitude-7.8 quake, army Col. Jose Nunez said.
The palm tree-lined beach towns along Ecuador’s coast are often brimming with tourist, gaining worldwide recognition because of its exotic attractions. But this week, the streets are flooded with sadness and pain, with those scavenging for nourishment a common occurrence. Occasionally, some leave without so much as a penny or scrap of bread after hours in the sun. Similar to aid workers and rescuers, residents wear masks to protect themselves against the dust. The death count rose to at least 602 on Friday, exceeding the dead from Peru’s 2007 earthquake and making this the deadliest quake in South America since a 1999 tremor in Colombia killed more than 1,000 people. Ecuadorean officials listed 130 people as still missing and the number of people left homeless climbed to over 25,000.
Mercedes Murillo folded clothes Thursday in a makeshift shelter on a Canoa soccer field where she is living with 50 other families. “It’s so hard, especially with the children, with all this dust, and sleeping outside. We’re thanking God that it’s not raining,” she said as she struggled to hold back tears.
Rescuers continued to sift through rubble on streets that looked as though a bomb had struck them, but it was too late to revive any bodies buried underneath. Aid workers have said there is an abundance of food and resources arriving from abroad. Eighty-six metric tons of relief items from UNICEF landed in Quito on Thursday night, including 10,000 fleece blankets, 300 plastic tarps, large tents and insecticide-treated nets, and many other items.
But the relief workers feared that delays in water distribution and mosquito-borne illness could spread within the camps. Correa has said the earthquake caused $3 billion in damage and that the reconstruction efforts will take years. His socialist administration is momentarily raising taxes to fund the recovery.
The damage has added to the already unstable economy in this OPEC nation, an issue largely stemming from the drastic drop in oil prices. Even before the quake, Ecuador was preparing for an economic hit because the International Monetary Fund predicted the economy would shrink 4.5 percent this year.