A man walks through flooded streets in Esmeraldas, Ecuador.SANTIAGO ARCOS (REUTERS)
"We lost everything, I haven't been able to rescue a single blouse," says Grace Aranda, one of the 15,077 people affected by the floods in Esmeraldas, northern Ecuador. The rain started Saturday night and continued into Sunday morning nonstop. At dawn, seven rivers overflowed and left four cities under water: Muisne, Esmeraldas, Atacames and Quinindé. "The water went up to two meters inside the house," describes Grace, who spends the day cleaning the mud and taking care not to steal the zinc sheets from the roof. "It is the only thing I have left in good condition of the house and unfortunately here the criminals take advantage of the misfortunes," adds the 57-year-old woman, who spends the night at a friend's house and her two children were sent with relatives to a rural area.
Grace lives in the 50 Casas neighborhood, which is in the capital of the province and rose in the middle of the emergency of the last El Niño phenomenon, which hit Ecuador in 1998. The authorities at that time relocated fifty families from other areas who lost their homes due to flooding in this sector that was supposed to be not vulnerable.
"Now they tell us it's our fault for being there; however, they built a huge thermal power plant also on the banks of the Teaone River, isn't that monster that contaminates us also at risk?, Why should we leave?", protests the woman, who is one of the founders of the neighborhood and ensures that no government authority has gone to the sector to assess the damage or provide help.
A group of women who wash clothes and mattresses on the street also complain about the absence of the government. They take advantage of the fact that they have been given drinking water, which is a luxury in Esmeraldas, the province most forgotten by the Ecuadorian State, where poverty reaches more than 50% of its population and the little commerce that moves is extinguished by the serious crisis of insecurity that is rooted in this province, the gateway for cocaine that comes from Colombia.
No government authority has reached the disaster areas, the president saw the situation from a helicopter and the ministers report from the offices in Quito, where it was announced that "100 million dollars will be allocated to serve the population and that contingency bonds will be delivered," said Esteban Bernal, Minister of Economic and Social Inclusion in an interview with a local media.
The mayor of Muisne, Yuri Colorado, denounces that they have had to self-manage the aid with private companies for the 1,229 affected families, of which 14 have lost their homes due to the current of the rivers. "We have spoken with the Minister of Transportation, César Rohón, and he said that a bridge was going to arrive to recover access to the canton, so that humanitarian aid can enter," says Colorado, but the bridge has not yet arrived, while the Institute of Meteorology, Inamhi, predicts heavy rains in Esmeraldas.
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