Saturday 24 February 2018

Thousands remain homeless one month after Ecuador quake

A young girl wears a donated dress at the New Hope shelter set up for people displaced by the earthquake one month ago (AP)
A young girl wears a donated dress at the New Hope shelter set up for people displaced by the earthquake one month ago (AP)

A month after a devastating earthquake flattened the Ecuadorian beach town of Pedernales, people are still living in tarp shelters and schools remain closed.

Just a third of the rubble has been swept from the streets, and s ome of those whose homes were ruined survive by scavenging through the debris.

Officials deployed a giant flag over the town on Monday to commemorate those who died in the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that killed 660 and initially left tens of thousands homeless.

Aid poured in from around the world, but officials say more than 7,000 people remain without a home.

Ecuador was already struggling economically before the disaster. President Rafael Correa has hiked taxes to fund the recovery but says it will take years to rebuild the beach towns and tourist hubs levelled by the quake.

He urged the country to keep its spirits up on Monday.

"The pain is immense, but the hope is greater," he wrote on Twitter, adding that the country has proved its mettle in the face of the tragedy.

The situation is much better than it was a month ago. International workers are working with the government to set up hundreds of temporary schools and living spaces, and victims are getting psychological and medical services.

But more than 100,000 children remain out of school, according to a report released on Monday by the United Nations Children's Fund, which said it had not received the donations it needs to attend to the disaster.

In Pedernales, residents are living much of their lives outside. On Saturday, a family prepared a pig to eat on a mat in the sand in the midst of makeshift shelters. People set clothes to dry on the roofs of their tents, and had their hair cut in barber's chairs set up on the street.

Estrella Vera, 62, was worried the government may try to resettle her and her 10 children in another town away from the coast.

"We are a fishing community. We need to stay here and rebuild our town however we can manage," she said.

Press Association

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