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Heavy rains trigger deadly landslide, leave more than 250 000 without drinking water in Cuenca, Ecuador

Heavy rainfall affecting southern Ecuador, particularly the province of Azuay, over the past 48 hours caused numerous landslides resulting in casualties and damage.

On March 28, the Servicio Nacional de Gestión de Riesgos reported 4 fatalities, 4 injured people, around 15 damaged houses and damaged roads due to a landslide in Cuenca City during the afternoon hours (LT) of March 27.1

Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios said Monday, March 28 they are still searching through collapsed structures and debris for bodies but hope most of the missing have found safety.2

“The official death toll remains four,” Palacios said. “We have evacuated about 400 people from Marianza and the hills just above Sayausi due to instability of the ground,” he said. “Our big concern today is that we receive more rain which could trigger more ground movement.”

In addition, landslides on the west side of the city contaminated the drinking water, affecting more than 250 000 people in the city.

According to the public utility ETAPA, three water processing facilities in the Cajas Mountains watershed – El Cebollar, San Pedro and Culebrillas – were affected by Sunday’s landslides and flooding.

“The flooding has generated turbidity in our treatment ponds and we must allow settlement before we can reopen the valves,” ETAPA officials said, adding that there was no indication of bacterial contamination in the water flowing into homes, even if it discolored. “All water coming into residences has been treated.”

An estimated 40 000 tons of rock and mud ended up on the Cajas highway, blocking all traffic.

Work crews and heavy machinery are on stand-by as officials are still waiting for slide activity to subside before ordering them to move in.

References:

1 Ecuador – Landslide and earthquake (GDACS, USGS, Servicio Nacional de Gestión de Riesgos, INAMHI, media) – ECHO Daily Flash of 28 March 2022

2 250,000 without drinking water following Sayausi landslides; Search for more bodies continues – Cuenca High Life

Featured image credit: Marcelo Cabrera P.

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