Landslide leaves eleven dead in Ecuador as desperate families search rubble
Rescuers are racing against time in southern Ecuador to find survivors of a landslide that left at least 11 people dead and more than 60 missing.
Torrential rain overnight on Sunday triggered a mudslide that buried dozens of homes and injured 30 people in the village of Alausi, some 180 miles (300km) south of the capital Quito, officials said.
As hopes faded of finding survivors under the rubble, neighbours and rescuers with search dogs worked feverishly to remove debris, some with their bare hands.
"My daughter is here, my granddaughter, my whole family," Carlos Maquero told AFP while standing among the ruins.
"I want you to understand the pain we're going through," the 40-year-old merchant said.
The same region was hit by an earthquake just over a week earlier in which 15 people were killed.
There is a "build up of tons and tons of earth", making it difficult to find survivors, Fernando Yanza, a firefighter working to rescue those trapped, told AFP.
Decreasing oxygen was the main problem for those still trapped, added Mr Yanza, who had been digging down through 13 feet (four metres) of mud looking for signs of life.
"As you dig, it becomes more dangerous" because the ground becomes less stable, he added.
Adriana Guzman, another firefighter, said removing all the rubble was almost impossible "and what is found, if it is found, will be bodies".
'We feel powerless'
The mudslide's death toll had grown to at least 11 with 67 missing, the SNGR risk management secretariat said in an update on Tuesday after four bodies were recovered.
"We feel powerless not being able to do anything," said Carmen Quiroz, whose sister-in-law was "buried" under the mud along with several others, including infants.
President Guillermo Lasso visited Alausi, in Chimborazo province, on Monday night where he was met with jeers of "Lasso out" by some who felt the tragedy could have been avoided.
Mr Lasso held a meeting with local authorities and later tweeted the rescue efforts would go on "as long as is necessary".
The army is also taking part in the operation.
The government opened three shelters for those affected by the landslide, which covered an area of more than 59 acres.
More than 160 homes were damaged. Alausi, a town of some 45,000 people surrounded by green hills, also saw several public buildings hit by the deluge, which damaged roads and closed schools.
As a light rain fell on the town, resident Carmen Gavilanez, 65, told AFP: "We are afraid that there will be another mudslide and that we will be left with nothing."
The area affected by Sunday's disaster had been in a yellow alert risk zone since February following other landslides.
After months of heavy rain, the government last week declared a two-month state of emergency in 13 of the country's 24 provinces, allowing economic resources to be redistributed to affected areas.
Since the start of the year, heavy rain in Ecuador had caused the deaths of 22 people, destroyed 72 homes and damaged more than 6,900 residences before Sunday's landslide, according to the risk management secretariat.
In January last year, 17 hours of torrential rain caused a dam to collapse, with the resulting flooding killing 28 people in Quito and injuring 52 more.