Ecuador coastal floods kill 5, displaces hundreds
Reuters News Service, March 13, 2001
QUITO, Ecuador - Ecuador's President Gustavo Noboa said yesterday he plans to declare a state of emergency in a coastal city battered by floods that have killed five and displaced hundreds since last week.
"I am going to decree an emergency in Chone," Noboa told reporters, a move that would allow the government to channel funds to aid the disaster-stricken coastal city, some 244 miles (390 km) west of the capital in Manabi province.
Five people have died, two have disappeared and hundreds have been forced to flee their homes since heavy storms beat down on Ecuador's Pacific coast last week, overflowing several rivers, according to the Red Cross.
The long-term presence of standing water - up to residents' knees in some places - could unleash several health epidemics, the agency said.
"We can't say exactly, but we presume that there will be an outbreak of malaria," Red Cross rescue director Daniel Arteaga told Reuters.
Three hundred families have been evacuated from their homes in coastal Manabi province since last Thursday, placed in temporary shelters in schools and military bases.
According to Humberto Henriquez, a meteorologist from the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology, rain is likely to continue throughout March and April, winter season along the tropical coast.
Henriquez said that rainfall last Thursday and Friday was more than double the average monthly rainfall in Manabi.
He said the sudden shift in climate is related to changes in temperature in Pacific Ocean waters - unrelated to the El Nino weather pattern that battered Ecuador's coast in 1997 and 1998, inflicting multimillion dollar losses on crops and local infrastructure.
According to the Coffee Exporters' Association, the downpours have not damaged Manabi's rich coffee crop, but have affected bananas, corn and rice.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE