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Ecuador: Several killed in highway landslide

June 17, 2024

A landslide caused by heavy rains and overflowing rivers killed six and injured many others, authorities said. Central and South America have been experiencing heavy rainstorms recently.

An aerial view of the area hit by a major landslide as rescue activities continue despite heavy rain, in Alausi district of Chimborazo, Ecuador on March 28, 2023.
Heavy rains in Central and South America have increased the risk of landslides in the regionImage: Dario Ordonez/AA/picture alliance

A landslide overcame a highway in Ecuador on Sunday, killing at least six and injuring 19 others, authorities said.

The landslide occurred in the central city of Banos de Agua Santa, said the Ecuadorian Secretariat for Risk Management. The agency had also reported that 30 more people were missing, but added in the afternoon that they had been located.

What do we know about the landslide?

The city is located about 135 kilometers (84 miles) south of capital Quito. Its mayor Miguel Guevara warned locals to stay away from treacherous roads.

Heavy rains had caused rivers to overflow, and the mud and debris hurtled down a hillside hitting three cars, two houses and a bus, the fire department said.

"My solidarity with all the families that have been affected," Ecuadorian Public Works Minister Roberto Luque said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

He added that the authorities were working to address the incident, and that work at three hydroelectric plants was affected.

Deputy fire chief Captain Angel Barriga told the Associated Press news agency that rescuers were treating nine people at the site.

Rescue authorities said their efforts were slowed down as landslides and rains blocked or swept away several roads. 

"Weather conditions are not favorable" for clearing the road, warned state emergency agency ECU 911.

What caused the heavy rains?

The rainstorm was caused by low pressure across Central and South America, creating a risk of landslides, rock falls and flooding across several countries.

Water overflowing from the Pisque River flooded into an amusement park in Ecuador on Sunday.

A red alert for heavy rains was issued in El Salvador, where a landslide killed two children earlier this week. Incoming flights were diverted to El Salvador's neighbor Guatemala, its communications ministry said.

tg/rmt (AP, AFP, Reuters)