Workers Provide Food, Shelter for 75,000 Homeless
QUITO, Ecuador (AP) _ Foreign governments and international relief agencies sent food and fuel to aid the estimated 75,000 people left homeless by a series of earthquakes that rippled across the nation and triggered deadly mudslides.
Relief workers in helicopters searched Napo province in jungle-cloaked northeastern Ecuador, the hardest hit area, for signs of life. Officials say 300 people were killed and at least 4,000 others are missing.
The Spanish Red Cross said $20,000 worth of supplies should reach Ecuador today, while World Vision, a Christian relief agency, said it was donating $10,000 worth of emergency supplies.
Earlier this week, The International Red Cross announced a $32,000 initial donation for rescue work. The United States shipped 50 tons of food, tents and blankets to the stricken areas.
Funding agencies such as the World Bank, the U.S. Assistance for International Development, the Interamerican Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund are considering emergency loans, spokesmen for those agencies said Wednesday.
The quakes struck Thursday night and Friday along the nation’s 2-mile-high Andean spine from the Colombian border to Riobamba, 95 miles south of Quito.
The temblors spawned avalanches of mud and rocks that destroyed homes and highways and swallowed up entire villages in remote Amazon forest regions.
A government official said Wednesday that 75,000 people were driven from homes that were damaged or destroyed in the disaster.
The mudslides also destroyed a 30-mile stretch of the nation’s 330-mile main oil pipeline in the eastern Andes, about 40 miles southeast of Quito. The government said it would take about five months to repair the pipeline and that oil exports would be halted for that period.
Late Wednesday, the government reiterated its decision to defer payments on the nation’s $8.2 billion foreign debt for the rest of the year because of the loss of crucial oil revenue.
Ecuador said it would build a 15-mile link to a Colombian pipeline through which it hoped to export about 30,000 barrels of oil a day. Construction was expected to take one to two months.
Before the earthquakes, Ecuador was producing 240,000 barrels of oil a day and exporting 144,000 barrels.
Energy Vice Minister Fernando Santos said Wednesday that Ecuador would ask the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to increase the nation’s quota by 50 percent from 210,000 to 310,000 barrels daily after the damaged pipelines are repaired.
Santos spoke on Venezuela’s state television. He was in Caracas to ask Venezuela to supply Ecuador’s foreign clients while the pipelines were being repaired.
Venezuela has agreed to cover part of Ecuador’s daily exports of 180,000 barrels, in addition to loaning the country 5 million barrels to meet international demand.
Ecuador’s free-market economy was rocked during 1986 by plummeting world oil prices that resulted in a near 50 percent cut in oil export earnings. the government defaulted on its first quarterly foreign debt payment in January because of declining income.
The Quito Astronomical Observatory said the strongest of last week’s quakes registered 6.8 on the Richter scale, which measures the energy released by earthquakes based on the ground motion recorded on a seismograph. A quake measuring 6 is capable of causing severe damage.
A 1797 earthquake in Ecuador is believed to have killed 41,000 people.