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Fears grow for missing people in Ecuador's massive mudslides

Rescuers continue searching for survivors
Rescuers continue searching for survivors Copyright Dolores Ochoa/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Dolores Ochoa/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AFP
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Emergency services are still searching for survivors of Sunday's massive landslide in central Ecuador. Mud engulfed at least 163 homes in the small Andean community of Alausi affecting around 500 people.

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Emergency services are still searching for survivors of Sunday's massive landslide in central Ecuador.

At least 16 people are known to have died and 16 more are injured but more are feared missing, at least seven, according to the Risk Management Secretariat (SNGR).

Mud engulfed at least 163 homes in the small Andean community of Alausi affecting around 500 people.

Residents told local media they heard tremors on the mountain before the landslide, which is estimated to be about 150 meters wide.

Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso said on Twitter that firefighters from neighbouring areas had been deployed to the village of Alausi in Chimborazo province, around 300 kilometres south of the capital, "to attend to the affected citizens."

Images shared on local media showed dozens of rescuers and civilians trying to clear debris by hand in the dead of night with only torches for light in the mountainous region.

The government said it had mobilized the national police, armed forces, the health ministry and the Red Cross to help with the rescue efforts.

"We have activated temporary accommodation and mobilized sleeping kits for those that have lost their homes," said a government statement on Twitter.

An evacuation order has been made due to the imminent risk of new landslides following more rain.

Heavy rain this year

Since the start of the year, heavy rains in Ecuador have led to the deaths of 22 people, destroyed 72 homes and damaged more than 6,900, according to the SNGR.

The downpours have caused close to 1,000 dangerous events, such as landslides and flooding.

The area affected by Sunday's disaster had been in a designated "yellow alert" risk zone since February due to other landslides.

In February, heavy rains forced oil pumping in the country to be suspended for five days for safety checks over fears that a major oil pipeline could have been damaged by the collapse of a bridge.

Ecuador's Andean valleys can have a rainy season that lasts from October until May.

Earthquake hit the region last month

The landslide on Sunday came just over a week after 15 people, including a Peruvian, were killed when a strong quake struck in the southwestern border region with Peru.

The earthquake, registered at a magnitude of 6.5 by local authorities, caused 22 landslides that blocked roads in the provinces of El Oro and Azuay.

Afterwards, the government declared a two-month state of emergency in 13 of the country's 24 provinces, allowing economic resources to be redistributed to affected areas.

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