On Saturday morning, I boarded a plane from Madrid, Spain back to Guayaquil, Ecuador. On Saturday night, after 14 hours in the air, a flight attendant informed us that the plane was being redirected to Colombia due to all Ecuadorian airports closing after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in the province of Manabí. I turned to the woman in the seat next to me, and asked if I’d heard the number correctly. “Seven point oh on the Richter scale? That can’t be right, can it?”
It wasn’t right. It wasn’t 7.0 on the Richter scale – it was actually 7.8.
Seven point eight, and enough to decimate thousands of towns and villages and cause lasting structural damage from the coastline all the way to our city, Guayaquil, over 300km to the south. Official reports confirm 480 deaths nationwide and 4,027 injured to date.
There are many accurate news sources where you can read the facts about what actually happened; all I want to do today is write a quick post to let the overseas community know more about the situation here in Ecuador.
Ecuador is not a rich country. Ecuador does not have huge standing on the international political stage. Ecuador does not have endless natural resources that it can trade in order to prop up its economy. What Ecuador does have, however, is fierce national pride and a compassionate, selfless people.
Since the earthquake, supermarket shelves have literally been cleared, companies have provided their services free of charge, and people from all walks of life have donated time, money and in-kind donations … all in response to the need for food, water, clothes, medicine, and a million and one other supplies to help those most affected.
While the city of Guayaquil has suffered some (not insignificant) damage, the worst hit areas have sadly been rural villages, invariably low-down on the economic scale; that is to say, the people least able to help themselves out of a terrible situation that arrived without warning and was not their fault.
I literally find myself without words to sufficiently express the level of generosity in the hearts of the Ecuadorian population, a truly altruistic generosity that has been fully exposed by this terrible tragedy.
Skype Ecuador is connecting all calls to the region for free; Claro Ecuador, the biggest phone provider in the country, has provided 1000 free messages to every user in the affected area; the country’s three biggest internet providers have grouped together to set up emergency spots where locals can charge their phones and make use of free wifi. Barcelona SC, the country’s biggest football club, has turned their members’ area into a donation centre. Taxinet is taking all passengers to donation centres free of charge in Guayaquil. Big businesses all around the country are providing whatever services they possibly can to help their affected countrymen.
But most moving of all is the response I’ve seen from the poorest communities in this city. The invasion community of Flor de Bastión – the same people who live in cane houses without plumbing and at times don’t have enough to put their kids through school and don’t know what pizza tastes like because they literally can’t afford it – are busy organising donations of water, clothes, pasta, rice; these things that they have, the little bit that they can do to help those even less fortunate than themselves.
Nobody deserves to suffer like this, and all charitable causes are worthy, but I’m compelled to advocate for the Ecuadorian people as this story slowly but surely loses traction in the international mainstream press.
Please, help them.
Every day families are being pulled from the rubble by local and international volunteers, children are being offered food, water and clothes thanks to donations both from Ecuador and abroad, and those severely injured are receiving life-saving medical treatment from organisations like the Ecuadorian Red Cross. This country is doing everything it can to help itself, but it just isn’t enough to deal with the vast and merciless damage inflicted by the earthquake.
Please, help them.
No donation is too small. In the next few days, I’ll be posting Ecuadorian reactions to the tragedy, with a view to offering a better insight into how the terrible events of the weekend have affected this beautiful country. In the meantime, I urge you to keep Ecuador in your hearts and minds, and to spread the word wherever you can.