Heavy rains set off landslides in Ecuador, killing at least 6 and leaving dozens missing

Residents traverse terrain that experienced landslides in Banos, Ecuador, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — A landslide surged over a highway in central Ecuador on Sunday, killing at least six people and leaving 30 others missing, authorities said as heavy rains pummeled the country and caused rivers to overflow.

The flood of mud and debris plowed down the hillside and hit three cars, two houses and a bus in the Ecuadorian resort city of Baños, the city's fire department said.

Deputy fire chief Capt. Angel Barriga told The Associated Press that rescuers were treating nine injured and had retrieved six bodies from the disaster site, while 30 more people were believed to be trapped by the mud.

The city of Baños, known among tourists as a jumping-off point for adventures in the Amazon jungle, has long been a magnet for travelers exploring Ecuador’s volcanoes and craters. It is about 135 kilometers (84 miles) south of the capital, Quito, by air or 186 kilometers (115 miles) by road.

Heavy rains have drenched Ecuador and other parts of the region over the past several days, with a landslide killing two children in El Salvador earlier this week.

Across Ecuador, storms sent a deluge of mud and floodwaters crashing into highways and bridges, severing the main road connecting Ecuador’s highlands to its Amazonian provinces.

Torrential rains caused several Ecuadoran rivers to jump their banks. A torrent of water from the Pisque River flooded a popular waterpark north of the capital Sunday. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Emergency workers in Ecuador said several landslides had blocked or swept away streets, slowing rescue efforts as the downpour continued. The mayor of Baños city, Miguel Guevara, urged residents to steer clear of treacherous roads and said authorities were racing to clear the area along the northern coast to search for more victims.