Alausí Mayor Rodrigo Rea was attacked Tuesday night following a meeting at the city auditorium before police were able to move him to safety. “There is no justification for this and we briefly detained one man who hit the mayor,” National Police captain Roberto Ramos said. “We understand the frustration and grief people are feeling, however, and we are asking for calm.”
Ramos said that family members of the unidentified man who slapped the mayor on the head remain missing following the March 25 landslide. “He is in a great amount of personal pain,” Ramos said. “The mayor understands this.”
During the Tuesday night meeting, Rea told several residents that efforts had been made to warn those living in the risk area prior to the landslide. “There were personal visits from our staff, warning of the danger, but people didn’t want to leave,” he said.
On Wednesday, the death toll rose to 31 as rescuers recovered another body from the rubble. The number of injured stands at 43 while 58 remain missing. The mayor’s office reports that 57 homes were destroyed with another 163 severely damaged.
The Alausí Fire Department, which is coordinating recovery efforts, said work has been slowed by heavy rains and the fear of new landslides.
In Azuay Province, residents of La Cría expressed frustration following the weekend evacuation from their homes due to the threat of a landslide. According to the Santa Isabel’s mayor’s office and national risk management experts, fissures in the ground around La La Cría continue to expand.
“The situation has not improved since we issued the yellow alert and we believe the danger of a major earth movement is increasing,” a risk management agent said Wednesday. “We advise all those who have evacuated to stay away from their homes.”
He added that land movement, which encompasses an area of more than 500 hectares, was probably triggered by the magnitude 6.5 March18 earthquake.
Although almost all La Cría residents have left their homes, many are returning during the day to feed livestock and pets and to remove personal belongings. “We can’t let our animals die and we need food from our gardens,” said 71-year-old María Muzha who is staying with her husband in the San Isidro community center. “This is terrible. All we do is sit and wait. We don’t know if there will be a landslide or they will tell us we can go home. It is very sad.”