Guayaquil, Ecuador – In the largest Ecuadorian city seriously hit by Saturday’s earthquake, citizens are acting together to deal with the chaos caused by the natural disaster.
Al Jazeera went to Guayaquil’s Red Cross centre to witness the city’s efforts to deal with the humanitarian crisis.
“We just set up this area to enlist the many volunteers this morning,” Maria Rojas, a Red Cross coordinator, told Al Jazeera. “There have been doctors, nurses, students, between 200 and 300, who have offered their help just today,” she said at 10:30 on Monday morning.
The magnitude 7.8 quake struck Ecuador’s coastal late on Saturday evening, and at least 413 Ecuadorians have been killed.
“The death toll is sure to rise … the loss is great, but we shall overcome,” President Rafael Correa said at a short press conference on Sunday night.
The tremors were felt both in the southern coastal city of Guayaquil, killing at least once citizen when an overpass fell on a car, and injuring five others.
Dr Carlos Burneo Aguirre, the secretary-general of the Red Cross in Guayaquil, told Al Jazeera that “many people were coming from other cities, Portoviejo – which was about 30 percent destroyed – and Chone, for treatment”.
Portoviejo is the capital of the Manabi region of Ecuador, the hardest hit. It has a population of over 200,000. Chone is a smaller, nearby city.
Burneo said that the Red Cross building in nearby Portoviejo was completely destroyed, and Choni lost its hospital to the quake. The organisation is working with under “tarps and other temporary structures to treat the many wounded in the area”.
Along with volunteers, The Red Cross of Guayaquil is receiving plenty of food and blood donations. “There are two locations for blood donation in Ecuador. Here, and in Quito [the capital],” Borneo explained. “Usually, we operate at a deficit of blood, but I think with the increased support from the people, we’ll be fine”, he continued, noting that the amount of blood needed is not yet known.
Makeshift donation centres have been set up in Guayaquil, with nurses and doctors assisting in collection.
Marianna Serrano, a 19-year-old student, was on October 9 avenue, assisting doctors and nurses.
“It’s the least I can do,” she told Al Jazeera. “Especially since my home and family are safe.”
The many historic Catholic churches in the city are also serving as collection points, with one even reminding Ecuadorians that “animals also need support”, one volunteer, who declined to give his name, told Al Jazeera.
Those responding to the crisis are doing so with both hope, determination and worry, both for those injured and for their own safety.
“We’ve had 250 small aftershocks since Saturday,” Red Cross Secretary-General Burneo said in his office. “This was the worst earthquake in my lifetime, and I’m 53. We hope there’s not another.”