Massive flooding in Ecuador’s capital and a resulting landslide have killed at least 24 people, the mayor of Quito said, as firefighter rescue crews continue searching homes and streets covered by mud.
Mayor Santiago Guarderas told reporters on Tuesday that 47 people were injured – two of them critically – while at least 20 people were reported missing.
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The floods on Monday were caused by heavy rains on the slopes of the Pichincha volcano, which overlooks the city.
Local authorities said in a statement that 75 litres of rain per square metre fell in the La Gasca sector, the highest since 2003. Weather forecasts had predicted just 2 litres per square metre.
A video posted online by local emergency services showed a deluge of mud, water and rocks sweep down an avenue in the city, washing away cars as it flooded houses and streets. Parts of Quito were also left without power after electrical poles were brought down by the deluge.
“We saw this immense black river that was dragging along everything, we had to climb the walls to escape,” said resident Alba Cotacachi, who evacuated her two young daughters from their home. “We are looking for the disappeared.”
🚨Debido al aluvión en el sector de la Gasca, desde la Sala de Operaciones se coordinó el despacho de recursos de @BomberosQuito, @CruzPichincha, @Salud_CZ9, @PoliciaEcuador.
Personal de @AMT_Quito informa que existen vías cerradas. ⚠️
Al momento, se reportan 3 fallecidos. pic.twitter.com/TXiKO9HWl2
— ECU 911 Quito (@ECU911Quito) February 1, 2022
The torrential downpour also caused a water collection structure to overflow, sending a deadly stream down a nearby hillside onto a sports ground where several people were practising volleyball as spectators looked on, authorities said at a virtual news conference.
It was not immediately known how many of them were among the victims.
The city authorities said residents in affected areas had been moved to eight emergency shelters.
Meanwhile, the National Police of Ecuador said they dispatched both Special Operations Group and an Intervention and Rescue Group to assist with recovery efforts, the minister of interior tweeted.
Dozens of soldiers were deployed to assist in the search-and-rescue efforts of the police and fire brigades, which were continuing early on Tuesday.
Rescuer Cristian Rivera said many people had to be treated for hypothermia after wading through mud that reached to their knees.
The Quito municipality has mobilised with heavy machinery to clear roads and fix the failed water catchment system. Power was lost in the affected parts of the city after electrical poles were brought down by the deluge.
Heavy rains have hit 22 of Ecuador’s 24 provinces since October, killing at least 18 people and injuring 24, according to the National Risk Management Service.
Scientists have said climate change is intensifying the risk of heavy rains around the world, with the warmer atmosphere holding more water.