Rescuers continue their operations Tuesday in southwestern Ecuador to try to find victims in the aftermath of the landslide that left eight dead and more than 70 missing according to a latest assessment.
Accompanied by sniffer dogs, groups of rescuers and locals are searching the rubble in the hope of finding survivors after a huge section of mountain broke off Sunday night in Alausi, Chimborazo province, some 300 km south of Quito.
According to the latest official assessment, the landslide left eight dead, 30 injured, 71 missing and 163 houses affected by the mudslide, which hit a peripheral neighborhood clinging to the mountainside.
On the spot, the survivors watched all day, between anger and helplessness, the rescue operations to try to free their buried relatives.
"Here lie my daughter, my granddaughter, my whole family (...) Our pain is terrible," Carlos Maquero told AFP, his face upset by pain, and launching terrible calls for help to speed up the excavation work. "My sisters managed to escape, thank God (...) but my sister-in-law didn't manage to get out, she was buried there with her babies," laments Carmen Quiroz.
As the hours passed, hopes of finding survivors dwindled. There is an "accumulation of tons and tons of soil" that "makes it difficult for victims to survive," Fernando Yanza, one of the firefighters working at the site, told AFP. The accumulated earth "removes the little oxygen and that's the main problem" faced by people trapped under the flow, he said. "The more you dig, the more dangerous it is" because the soil is unstable, he added.
"As long as necessary"
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso, who arrived on Monday evening, was greeted with boos and shouts of hostility: "Out with Lasso!" "I was able to see with my own eyes the search and rescue work carried out by rescuers," he commented on Twitter after meeting with local authorities, assuring that these operations would continue "as long as necessary".
In the disaster area, some 600 houses spared by the flow were evacuated on the orders of the authorities. The government has set up three shelters for those affected by the landslide, which covered 24.3 hectares.
The area where the tragedy occurred had been on "yellow alert" since February due to rainfall. In addition, the authorities had warned of a possible subsidence of the road in the same area.
Hit by heavy rains that have caused widespread flooding, Ecuador last week declared a state of emergency in 13 of the country's 24 provinces to mobilize resources to help those affected.
The summary of the week France 24 invites you to look back on the news that marked the week
Take international news with you everywhere! Download the France 24 app