Rescuers looked for nearly 50 people reported missing on Monday after a landslide in southern Ecuador that at least seven people died in was caused by months of torrential rain.
In the village of Alausi, located in the province of Chimborazo, about 300 kilometers (180 miles) south of Quito, the mudslide occurred overnight on Sunday into Monday, burying dozens of homes and injuring 23, according to authorities.
In order to reach any survivors hidden between twisted metal sheets and split tree trunks, rescuers and bystanders were observed Monday attempting to remove debris by hand.
Residents of Alausi, a 45,000-person community surrounded by lush hills, waited for news in the muddy streets while many of them sobbed in astonishment.
The avalanche also destroyed a number of public structures, narrowed streets, and shut down three institutions.
“I managed to escape with about 15 minutes to spare,” survivor Jose Agualsaca told Teleamazonas, saying he was rushing to get things out of his house before the mud came.
On Twitter, President Guillermo Lasso announced that firefighters from nearby communities had hurried to the village to aid those impacted by the tragedy.
He exhorted everyone to leave the affected regions.
To aid in the rescue operations, the government called upon the national police, military forces, health ministry, and Red Cross.
“We have activated temporary accommodation and mobilized sleeping kits for those that have lost their homes,” said a government statement on Twitter.
Since the start of the year, heavy rains in Ecuador have caused the deaths of 22 people, destroyed 72 homes and damaged more than 6,900, according to the SNGR risk management secretariat.
The downpours have caused close to 1,000 dangerous events, such as landslides and flooding.
The area affected by Sunday’s disaster had been in a designated yellow alert risk zone since February following other landslides.
Sunday’s landslide came just over a week after 15 people were killed when a strong quake struck in Ecuador’s southwestern border region with Peru.
The earthquake, registered at a magnitude of 6.5 by local authorities, caused 22 landslides that blocked roads in the provinces of El Oro and Azuay.
Afterward, the government declared a two-month state of emergency in 13 of the country’s 24 provinces, allowing economic resources to be redistributed to affected areas.
In February, heavy rains forced oil pumping in the country to be suspended for five days for safety checks over fears that a major oil pipeline could have been damaged by the collapse of a bridge.
Ecuador’s Andean valleys can have a rainy season that lasts from October until May.