On Saturday continuing until
today all my social media accounts got flooded with messages of people looking for
others, and asking for provisions. Then I got cell messages from Ecuadorian
friends asking me if my family was ok.
This past weekend Ecuador, my beautiful
home country, suffered an earthquake of magnitude 7.8.
When I read the news, I scrambled to try and
contact my family, and for three hours the despair of not knowing kept me
refreshing my phone every two minutes.
I had sent messages to my parents, my
sister and my brother who all live in one of the affected provinces. Each, I
later found out, had been in a different city and were fine, but the level of tragedy
and ruin hitting other friends and family was horrifying.
What the news reports often leave out is how unprepared we
were. Natural disasters hit suddenly, but sometimes the damage goes beyond contingency
plans in place. Ecuador is not prone to really strong seismic activity, and houses
are generally made of concrete and not designed to withstand earthquakes. During seismic activity, these buildings and houses instead of bending, snap,
leaving people inside trapped sometimes without hope of rescue.
At the last
count there were 525 fatalities, more than 4000 injured, and 237 reported
missing. This is not the final tally. There remain those that are still trapped
under rubble whom, if they have survived, would have lost everything they love.
The aftershocks continue hitting the country sometimes
with the magnitude of an earthquake itself. The last one on April 20th,
was magnitude 6.2 in the already damaged sectors. It impacts rescue efforts and
diminishes hope of finding survivors. There have been on and off more than 400
aftershocks and people are scared.
Terrified of a second hit, some inhabitants
in the coastal sector of the country are not longer sleeping inside their still
standing homes, and if they are, they do on mattresses close to the exit so
that the minute the earth shakes again they can go outside.
regardless of whether they suffered loss, are volunteering in a country-wide
effort to help those left without home and food.
My sister’s family is helping
at the epicenter, and the rest of my immediate family are collaborating with
the Ecuadorian red cross to mobilize the much needed basic necessities. They
all say the same thing: survivors need clean water and canned goods
desperately. Countries like Venezuela, Chile and Mexico have sent rescue teams
to help, and Obama called the Ecuadorian president to offer help. It is not
Ecuadorians that leave whether temporarily or permanently,
do so in search of an opportunity. We love our land, and it hurts deeply that
the natural paradise that catalyzed Darwin’s theory of evolution is in so much need.
media coverage in the U.S. hasn’t been too comprehensive and widespread, so
relief efforts and donations are still lacking. And so I ask you, if you can,
to contribute. I have added a list of organizations at the end of this page to
that end. Anything is useful! The survivors at the epicenter have nothing left.
Ecuadorian Red Cross:
World Food Program USA:
Care Relief Efforts:
Oxfam Emergency Kits:
Photos of Rosa and her family:
Rosa Mino-Zambrano is a graduate student at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UT Health Science Center in the Physiology Ph.D. program. The photos have been provided by Rosa’s family who lives in the Guayaquil area (the affected area). The photos of the disaster were taken by Ecuadorian rescue volunteers and given to Rosa to use for this blog.