Ecuador earthquake: Update from CARE staff on the ground

By: 
CARE
A woman cries as she stands next to a house destroyed by the earthquake in the coastal town of Pedernales, Ecuador

Doris Guerra, CARE staff member in Quito, describes the situation on the ground in Ecuador:

People ran out of their houses as soon as the earthquake hit. They had no time to take their belongings and left everything behind. The earthquake was one of the strongest the country has ever experienced.

Houses are destroyed, roads are blocked; it is very difficult to access the people in need.

There is no electricity and people are having problems to reach out to family members making sure they are safe and alive – some people are facing psychological trauma.

People outside a damaged house
Children sit outside the remains of a destroyed home in Pedernales, Ecuador

People lost their houses and all of their belongings. Their immediate needs are food, water, hygiene and sanitation as well as clothes.

There is currently no electricity on the ground; therefore people need generators to be able to get medical support to those in hospitals. People are also in need of mosquito nets to ensure prevention from dengue fever. People require gloves and masks to free people from the debris, and also to clear the roads. There is also a lack of boxes or containers to transport items.

Earthquake damage in Pedernales
A damaged building photographed from a car window

At the moment rescue and aid workers mainly from Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela are trying to support the Ecuadorian government in order to save people’s lives.

There are still people buried under their houses and we need to make sure to reach them as quickly as possible.

The government is coordinating the different actors, especially as more and more international aid workers are arriving and the scale of the destruction becomes clearer as the most affected areas become more accessible.

Buildings damaged by the earthquake
Buildings damaged by the earthquake

The government estimates that it will take months to clear roads and even years to rebuild the cities. This was one of the strongest earthquakes ever to hit Ecuador, and the scale of destruction and devastation is high. People in the most affected areas need to literally start from scratch and rebuild their homes and livelihoods.

Interview by Ninja Taprogge, CARE Communications Officer

Read more from Ecuador: What is it like to experience an earthquake?

About the earthquake

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck northern Ecuador on  April 16 at 6:58am followed by more than 239 aftershocks of between 2 and 6.1 magnitude. Six provinces are severely affected; infrastructure (roads and buildings) are heavily damaged; major roads have been blocked by landslides or destroyed, obstructing access to affected areas.

The Government of Ecuador is responding and has received support from different international actors and foreign governments. Soldiers and police are being deployed to assist in the rescue operations and to ensure the safety and security of the people in the affected areas.

CARE staff and police distributing water
CARE staff and a police officer distribute bottled water following the earthquake

CARE’s response

An international CARE emergency team (Team Leader, Safety and Security expert, Communications expert, Logistician) has arrived to support the country office of 21 staff. The team will conduct a needs assessment and will develop a response strategy. CARE’s response for the first phase of the emergency (1-3 months) will focus on:

  • Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH): given the widespread infrastructure damage, affected families will need clean drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities.
  • Food and nutrition: meeting the immediate food and nutrition needs of affected families will be a priority, in addition to ensuring that communities are able to maintain food security in the longer term.  
  • Shelter: people whose homes have been damaged or destroyed will require safe and secure temporary shelter, as well as support to rebuild or repair their houses.

CARE is a member of the humanitarian country team which includes UN agencies, international NGOs and the Government, and we will work in partnership to ensure that those people in most critical need are reached. This will be a long-term response, to help people survive the initial disaster, but also to rebuild their homes, infrastructure and lives. Based on our experience from previous disasters, our emergency response programme will also include a recovery period to help people rebuild and restore livelihoods over the coming years.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.