Disaster in the town of El Placer, the gateway community to our Cerro Candelaria and Naturetrek Reserves, and home of many of our reserve guards

[Traduccion en espanol abajo]

We have experienced very heavy rain in the Banos area over the last week, and heavy rainfall always means landslides in this mountainous area. Normally these landslides happen in unpopulated areas, but on Aug 11 a large chunk of a steep mountain fell on the community of El Placer, the gateway community for our Cerro Candelaria and Naturetrek reserves and the home town of most of our Banos-area reserve guards. The mountain was very steep, and the material fell vertically nearly a quarter of a mile (500m), smashing into the town with enormous kinetic energy. A house in its path was destroyed, killing three people and leaving a young child alive but orphaned.

https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/ecuador/tres-desaparecidos-y-un-herido-por-deslizamiento-de-magnitud-en-banos-nota/

Several of our staff missed being killed by just one minute — they had been crossing the landslide zone just a minute before the landslide struck. They saw the wall of rocks and soil come crashing down on their friends and relatives, and later saw the bodies. Understandably they were deeply shaken and scared.

Will the mountain make another landslide? Is the town still in danger? The local government attempted to fly a drone to look more closely at the source of the landslide to answer that question, but for some reason it couldn’t go high enough to be useful. We have good drones (thank you Matt Scott and Steve Mandel) so I did an inspection. I post the results here so that authorities, safety specialists, and community members can see what the upper parts of the landslide look like. We have no special knowledge about this; we are providing this data to the local community without interpretation.

Lou Jost, Fundacion EcoMinga

Desastre en el pueblo de El Placer, la comunidad a la entrada de nuestras Reservas Cerro Candelaria y Naturetrek, y hogar de muchos de  los guardias de nuestras reservas
Video 01 – Deslizamiento de tierra en El Placer
Hemos experimentado lluvias muy fuertes en el área de Baños a lo largo de la última semana, y las fuertes lluvias siempre significan deslizamientos en esta área montañosa. Normalmente estos deslizamientos ocurren en áreas no pobladas, pero el 11 de Agosto, un gran pedazo de montaña cayó en la comunidad de El Placer, la comunidad a la entrada de nuestras reservas Cerro Candelaria y Natretrek y el pueblo hogarde la mayoría de nuestros guardias de las reservas del área de Baños. La montaña era muy empinada, y el material cayó verticalmente casi un cuarto de milla (500 m), chocando contra el pueblo con una enorme energía cinética. Una casa en su camino fue destruida, matando a tres personas y dejando a un niño pequeño con vida, pero huérfano.
Mucho de nuestro personal se salvó de morir por solo un minuto – ellos habían estado cruzando la zona de deslave solo un minuto antes de que ocurra el deslizamiento. Vieron la pared de rocas y suelo caer sobre sus amigos y familiares, y luego vieron los cuerpos. Es comprensible que estuvieran profundamente conmocionados y asustados.
¿Ocurrirá otro deslizamiento de tierra en la montaña? ¿Esta el pueblo todavía en peligro? El gobierno local intentó volar un dron para mirar más de cerca a la fuente de deslizamiento para responder a esa pregunta, pero por alguna razón no pudo ir lo suficientemente arriba para ser útil. Tenemos buenos drones (gracias Matt Scott y Steve Mandel) así que hicé una inspección. Publicaré los resultados aquí de modo que las autoridades, los especialistas en seguridad, y los miembros de la comunidad puedan ver como se ve la parte superior del deslizamiento. No tenemos un conocimiento especial sobre esto; estamos proveyendo esta información a la comunidad local sin una interpretación.
Lou Jost, Fundación EcoMinga
Traducción: Salomé Solórzano

Our guards and townspeople heroically rescue survivors of a landslide

It has been pouring rain here for several days, after a long drought. That’s a recipe for disaster in these steep mountains. The roads here necessarily pass across nearly vertical slopes, and roads are often blocked by landslides in weather like this. It is pure luck whether a vehicle gets hit by these landslides. Yesterday a bus full of students on a school outing was hit by one of multiple landslides that fell on the Banos-Puyo road that goes past most of our reserves. The bus accident happened at El Placer, the town where our guards live. Two people were killed and many were injured. Darwin Recalde, one of our reserve wardens, was quoted by an Ecuadorian newspaper in their story about what happened:

“A eso de las 10:00 se escuchó un fuerte estruendo cosa que nos hizo asustar mucho, cuando salimos a ver qué es lo que había pasado la montaña se ha ido abajo, lo que le ha arrastrado a un bus de la cooperativa Huambaló fuera de la carretera (Baños-Puyo), entonces con los vecinos acudimos a brindar ayuda a los heridos que en medio del fango se lamentaban del dolor”

“At 10:00 we heard a very loud sound that scared us a lot; when we ran out to see what happened. the mountain had come down and pushed a Huambalo bus off the road, so with our neighbors we went to help the injured  who were in the middle of the mud crying out in pain.”

https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2018/04/28/nota/6735900/deslizamiento-tierra-provoca-cierre-banos-puyo

Ambulances could not get there quickly because of the landslides, and professional rescue workers had to arrive on foot.

Apparently the bus was first hit by a small amount of material. The bus stopped (probably because the road ahead had been blocked) and people left the bus to go to safety. At that moment more material came down and carried the bus and passengers off the road.

Darwin and his neighbors knew that more material could fall on them at any time during the rescue, but this is the kind of people they are, willing to risk their lives to help others.

The road remains closed and rains continue.

P1050325

Darwin a few years ago at the top of our Cerro Candelaria Reserve.