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Monday 18 April 2016

UK disaster relief agency ShelterBox sends a team to Ecuador as quake death toll rises. Heavy rains and landslides hamper rescue efforts
UK disaster relief agency ShelterBox sends a team to Ecuador as quake death toll rises. Heavy rains and landslides hamper rescue efforts

The Ecuador government has now officially called for international aid following the country’s worst earthquake for 37 years, and Cornwall-based ShelterBox is sending in a team to work in partnership with other shelter providers. But many of the worst-affected rural communities are hard to reach, and aftershocks and landslides are a constant fear.

ShelterBox, the international disaster relief emergency shelter specialists based in Cornwall, are sending a team to Ecuador to work alongside colleagues from the United Nations, Red Cross, Oxfam and others. They will assess the need for shelter following the 7.8 magnitude quake that struck at 18.00 local time on Saturday evening.

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has declared a state of national emergency, and said the first priority is finding survivors. His Government has now triggered an international aid response via the United Nations.

The known death toll is 272, with 1,500 injured, but those figures are expected to rise. Vice-President Jorge Glas, visiting the severely damaged city of Manta, met residents pleading for help to reach people trapped under rubble. He said, ‘We cannot go in with heavy machinery because it can be tragic for the wounded.’ In the absence of military or expert help, in some areas people are using their bare hands to try to dig out survivors. Helicopters and buses are ferrying troops north, but landslides have cut off some communication routes.

ShelterBox’s Operations Coordinator Jonathan Berg from the UK and Response Volunteer Katherine ‘Kara’ Lapso from the US will arrive in Quito on Wednesday to join the official ‘shelter cluster’ convened by the IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies). They will gather information rapidly from local sources, and make decisions on what shelter aid is needed, and where.

Operations Team Lead James Luxton told the BBC, ‘We are looking to support the Government and other organisations in Ecuador. We have one of our main aid hubs in Panama, and also aid stored in both Colombia and Bolivia, so we have options to bring ShelterBoxes, tents and Shelter Kits in from those bordering countries.’

‘Landslides are of concern. The quake hit in the northwest region of Ecuador, which is quite rural. A lot of the information we have so far has been from the two main cities of Quito and Guayaquil, but information has been relatively sparse from the rural areas worst hit. The Government and agencies are having real difficulty even getting there. Ecuador is prone to heavy rainfall causing landslides where there has been deforestation.’

‘There have also been 135 aftershocks, which can cause further damage and hamper aid efforts. Although the tsunami warnings have been lifted, coastal areas may still flood on high tides due to seismic land shift.’        

ShelterBox provides essential equipment for families in the wake of natural disasters or conflict. Their distinctive and portable green boxes each contain a specially-designed family tent able to withstand weather extremes, as well as blankets, groundsheets, water carriers and purification, solar lighting, mosquito nets, cooking equipment, even activities for children. Shelter Kits contain tools and waterproofing to help repair damaged buildings or to make rudimentary shelters.


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