Aerial view of the Nueva Alausí neighborhood after the avalanche, in Ecuador. MARCOS PIN (AFP)
The earth made a sound as if it split in two.
In a matter of seconds, the mountain completely covered the Nueva Alausí neighborhood, which is in the province of Chimborazo, in central Ecuador.
The tons of earth covered more than 60 houses, all inhabited.
It was nine o'clock at night on Sunday, March 26.
Among the survivors and neighbors, they count who is missing to get an idea of how many people are under the rubble.
The Moina, Ruiz, Berrones, Marcatoma, Guamán, Caranqui, Quisatasi families are missing... According to the Government, there are 46 people underground.
Also missing is David Pilamunga's 12-year-old son, who had gone that night to help his mother evict.
“In the morning, the crack on top of the mountain had opened up wider and was making the ground crackle,” says David.
That was the alert to leave, although misfortune reached them first.
His sister and his four-month-old son made it out, but not his 12-year-old son, whom he searches through the rubble, trying to guide rescuers over the mound of dirt.
Like David, other neighbors and relatives help in the search and rescue of survivors, which becomes more difficult as the hours go by and they stopped at dawn.
Until nine in the morning on Tuesday, 36 hours after the landslide, the contingent of rescuers was reduced to small groups.
The majority of those who continue to dig for lives are the community members themselves.
The Ecuadorian government stopped reporting on the situation after the last assessment report at noon on Monday, when they reduced the death toll from 16 to seven without any explanation.
President Guillermo Lasso visited the disaster area at night where he was rebuked by the relatives of the victims.
"Unfortunately, those two women from Alause who fought to prevent this from happening are not here," one of the survivors tells her crying.
For four months, the neighbors warned of a crack in the upper part of the mountain and tried to ask the authorities for forceful action.
The Government recognized the risk, a technical committee was formed to evaluate the solutions and even declared a yellow alert in the area on February 19.
“On March 1, the Minister of Housing sent a letter to the mayor of Alausí, warning him of the risks and proposing the solution of relocating families in this area,” explained Lasso.
The solution was to build a housing complex, which the emergency did not synchronize with the times of the bureaucracy with which public works are carried out in the country.
“We want justice to be done, everyone told us that the mountain is not going to come down,” the neighbors say to the president in chorus.
Lasso replied that this was not the time to talk about it.
"Let's dedicate ourselves to rescuing the disappeared, and then we will define those responsible," he said.
Faced with the risk, the erroneous message that nothing would happen, and fear, María Marcatoma, 65, and her husband had rented a room far from their house and what is now ground zero.
But that Sunday of the tragedy she returned to the neighborhood to see how her things were and to sell milk, which was her way of life, says her daughter-in-law Aida, who came from Quito to help look for her.
In Alausí, like many other areas of Ecuador, they build their houses on the slopes, on the edge of the mountain or in the middle of it.
When the pieces of earth fall off around the houses, they place black plastic to prevent the rain from wetting the earth and delay -a little- that it falls off faster.
Then they create the roads that open the way to the neighborhoods.
There are two other communities and four neighborhoods that continue under yellow alert, under the same conditions as Nueva Alausí.
The uncertainty of what is going to be done to avoid a new tragedy.
Follow all the international information on
, or in
our weekly newsletter
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
I'm already a subscriber