Ecuador floods: At least 18 dead after record rainfall causes landslides and 10ft waves of mud

Mud and debris swept over homes and a sports field where a volleyball match was underway in capital Quito

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Wednesday 02 February 2022 06:33
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Landslides kill at least 18 in Ecuador capital

The most catastrophic flooding in 20 years has hit northern Ecuador with deadly 10-foot waves of mud and landslides crashing through neighbourhoods.

At least 18 people have been killed in a neighbourhood of the capital Quito after a hillside collapsed under heavy rainfall.

Some 46 people have been injured and an unknown number are still missing. Mud and debris swept over homes and a sports field where a volleyball match was underway, according to rescue officials on Tuesday.

“We saw this immense black river that was dragging along everything, we had to climb the walls to escape,” resident Alba Cotacachi, who evacuated her two young daughters from their home, told Reuters news agency.

Quito Mayor Santiago Guarderas told the BBC that Monday’s rainfall was “a record figure” not seen since 2003.

More heavy rainfall is expected in the region over the next 48 hours.

Images from the collapse showed waves of mud, some 10 feet (3 metres) high, carrying cars, trash cans, rocks and debris down through the neighbourhoods of La Gasca and Armero from the slopes of the Ruco Pinchincha volcano, which towers over the Ecuadorian capital.

Neighbours joined rescue teams to dig through the mud and collapsed buildings in the hunt for survivors. As the rescue began, police called for silence so that the cries of those who were trapped could be heard.

Ecuador is highly vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, the United Nations reports. The mean annual rainfall is expected to increase by 3 per cent in the period 2030-2049, compared to 1980-1999.

Earth’s oceans have absorbed the vast majority of the heat caused by greenhouse gas emissions, largely from the burning fossil fuels.

Warmer oceans led to an increase in moisture-laden air which whips up more powerful storm systems, and can affect the intensity and frequency of rainfall.

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