The earthquake that struck Ecuador on the 16th April 2016 was a massive 7.8 on the Richter scale, resulting in over 600 deaths and nearly 28,000 injured individuals. It was felt strongly across the whole country but devastated the coastal regions of Manta, Perdernales and Portoviejo, which accounted for some 75% of the total casualties. In the end it turned out to be the worst disaster to hit the country in over 70 years.
Most of the Camp Ecuador team were at home when the earthquake occurred and everyone has spoken of how they knew that this earthquake was different when it struck. It lasted for around 1 minute but felt like a lifetime to all. In the days that followed and with the news that trickled through it became evident that this was massive and that the recovery effort was going to be long and difficult. We have two camps that are on the coast and for the first two days we were only able to make contact with one of the communities due to the damage to the telecommunications. Naturally we were incredibly concerned for all of our friends in the villages and were overjoyed when we finally made contact and were told that everyone was fine and there had only been superficial damage to people’s homes and livelihoods.
There was a great sense within the Camps International team that, as we have operations on the ground, we were in a strong position to help and not just sit by and watch events unfold on the news. Given the far reaching network Camps has with past and present volunteers our UK colleague, Amy Lacey, put together the JustGiving page in the hope that we could amass funds and buy donations of those things most needed in the relief effort.
In the first few days after the earthquake the most essential aid needed was in the form of food and water. The response to this call by the Ecuadorian people was astonishing and showed a unity within the country that all can be proud of. With the relief effort under way we continued to receive generous donations to our Camps JustGiving page from across the globe, exceeding our target by 51%!
In order to coordinate our efforts we were liaising directly with the Ecuadorian Red Cross and the UNHRC to see what was needed the most. We decided to use 100% of the money that was donated to purchase complete family kits for cleaning and personal hygiene. These kits are necessary to help prevent the outbreak of infectious diseases, common in post-disaster situations. The temporary camps used to rehouse the destitute victims need to be as clean and as comfortable as possible.
12 days after the initial earthquake the roads were opened again and we were able to visit Camp Costa and Camp Esmeraldas. We wanted to see if there was any damage to the area but most importantly we wanted to offer support to the people in the communities. We had a number of meetings with the leaders of the respective villages and the directors of the local health services. Everyone told us the same thing, thankfully there were no injuries or deaths and structural damage was next to nothing in the area, especially in comparison with other areas on the coast.
Our travel between camps took us through some of the worst effected areas which was a truly heart wrenching experience. However, amongst the devastation and rubble of former homes and businesses, people were already attempting to move on with their lives. We saw people selling food and other goods as they tried to regain normality in the wake of such a life changing disaster. The people of Ecuador are strong and their unity in the face of adversity is an inspiration for anyone who is lucky enough to come and work, volunteer or visit this beautiful country. Our condolences go out to all of those people who lost someone on April 16th and we wish a speedy recovery to all those that have been effected by the earthquake.