Ecuador faces worst flooding in decades, 3 mn people affected

February 24th, 2008 - 4:51 pm ICT by admin  

Quito (Ecuador), Feb 24 (IANS) More than three million people, who make up a quarter of Ecuador’s population, have been afflicted by the worst floods the Andean nation has known for decades, according to a security ministry official, EFE news agency reported Sunday. The official said 265,000 people have been evacuated, as many as 60,000 of them finding refuge in government shelters set up in the coastal provinces of Guayas, Los Rios, El Oro and Manabi.

Civil Defence has put the toll at 12 nationwide but media and other sources said the actual figure was much higher.

Associations representing the farm sector say some 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of crops have been destroyed and thousands of livestock killed.

Roads have been washed away and electricity and telephone services have been badly hit, leaving some rural areas effectively cut off while parts of several cities are underwater.

President Rafael Correa flew over affected areas of Guayas and Los Rios provinces in a helicopter to inspect the damage.

The government deployed around 4,000 soldiers and police to help in the relief efforts, after the president declared a state of emergency last Tuesday.

The first shipment of international aid - 17 tonnes of food, medicine, tents and blankets - had arrived from Argentina, with additional help expected from Venezuela, the US, Japan, Spain and Peru.

Earlier this week Correa authorized the transfer of $25 million from central government to local authorities for rebuilding in the worst affected areas.

The rains, which have intensified in the past six days, are expected to persist until the end of March in the Andean highlands and even longer along Ecuador’s Pacific coast, according to a government meteorologist.

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