Girl’s body snatched from Ecuador landslide raises death toll to 8
Rescuers have pulled the body of a 6-year-old girl from the rubble of a house buried by a large landslide in central Ecuador, bringing the confirmed death toll to eight.
ALAUSÍ, Ecuador — On Tuesday, rescuers pulled the body of a 6-year-old girl from the rubble of a house buried by a large landslide in central Ecuador, bringing the confirmed death toll to eight as the search continues for more than 60 people still missing.
The girl’s body was the first to be found in around 40 hours of searching after the initial landslide on Sunday evening, reflecting the difficulty rescuers were having digging through mud, rocks and rubble. The landslide buried at least 50 homes in the Andean town of Alausí.
The girl was found at a depth of 5 meters (5 yards) to one side of the lower part of the avalanche. Rescuers widened the search in the area to search for the girl’s uncle and two cousins, who relatives say were with her when the landslide hit.
The head of one of the rescue teams, Jorge Torres, told The Associated Press that the ground conditions made the search very difficult since the bodies “must be between 20 and 30 meters underground”. He said rescuers felt tremors in the ground and feared another landslide.
Torres said the first few hours are critical to finding survivors and hopes of finding people alive fade as the days go by. But he said they would continue to search in hopes of ‘saving someone alive or at least bringing peace of mind amid the pain with a body for loved ones to grieve’.
Quito Fire Department Chief Esteban Cárdenas told local media that the area is covered in more than 2 million cubic meters of dirt, mud and rocks that have buried homes up to three stories high.
The searchers, who used heavy machinery, were joined by dozens of Indigenous people from nearby areas. Firefighters, army, police and Red Cross rescuers were exhausted but vowed to keep looking.
One of the reasons the death toll was not higher was that in late February authorities had warned of the risk of earth movements in the area due to heavy rains. When cracks in the ground began to widen, authorities advised people to evacuate. Some did, some didn’t.
Milton Taday said he was able to move his disabled mother to a neighbor’s house on more stable ground which let them use a few rooms.
“But now everything is closing down, people are leaving everything out of fear,” he said. ___ Associated Press reporter Gonzalo Solano in Quito, Ecuador, contributed to this report.