Who is the Most Affected by the Earthquake in Ecuador?

By Marcos A Maranges on March 19, 2023

Yesterday in the early morning, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake shook the south of Ecuador. The quake was followed by at least six aftershocks of lesser intensity that further deteriorated the area’s infrastructure. Despite the intense seismic activity, Ecuador’s Institute of Geophysics said there was no tsunami threat for the area.

The mobilization of national health and rescue services was followed by statements from several regional governments. So far, Chile, Brazil, and Bolivia have offered to cooperate with humanitarian aid for the victims. Meanwhile, the Cuban government expressed its condolences and willingness to send doctors to the disaster area if the situation so requires.

The earthquake was felt in 13 out of 24 Ecuadorian provinces, especially in Guayas, where the epicenter was located. There were also reports of strong quakes in Guayaquil, Ambato, Zamora, and Loja, but the most affected cities are Cuenca and Machala, said national authorities.

So far, 15 deaths have been reported, three children among them, with many missing and about 450 injured. Both figures could increase as rescue work advances.

The material losses are substantial: 80 schools, 33 hospitals, and 180 houses were affected, while another 84 houses were destroyed. The government has set up at least one shelter for families who lost their homes. Likewise, communications in the area have been compromised due to the collapse of 5 bridges and the blockage of important highways and secondary roads after at least 22 landslides. This situation forced the government to decree a state of emergency in the province of Azuay.

On the other hand, the national oil infrastructure was not affected. During the earthquake, operations were halted, although just for a minute. So, the main national industry has not been affected.

According to official sources, most of the damage to real estate is located in the poor neighborhoods of the area. Once again, natural disasters take their toll and remind us of one of the saddest consequences of inequality.

Having decent housing is a right in Ecuador, however, the reduction of social spending and the deterioration of social security for over five years now, during the neo liberal Lasso Administration has led to thousands of citizens to live in precarious conditions that imply a risk to their lives, as has become and that has led to stark clarity with this earthquake.

All this is taking place amid a difficult economic situation for a large part of Ecuadorian families. The country is going through an economic crisis that mainly affects the lower-income sectors. Inflation is one of the main problems that remains unresolved. The government’s failure to implement dozens of measures promised during the social mobilizations that shook the country a year ago is probably the most important reason.

In this context, members of the Union for Hope movement, led by followers of former president Rafael Correa, have appealed to collect donations to be delivered directly to the affected families.

For President Guillermo Lasso, this tragedy may be a moment to distract from scandals, political tensions and improve his deteriorated image. Currently, and for the second time in less than two years, Lasso is at risk of impeachment. The process was initiated last March 16 by legislator Viviana Veloz, together with other 58 representatives.

Neither the weather nor the political climate favor Lasso, and even less the social mood of the majority of people, especially after two years of heavy neoliberal shocks. However, the final result will depend to a great extent on the management of this delicate situation that has disrupted the lives of thousands of Ecuadorian families.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – US