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Ecuador News

Big waves, high ocean level batter the coast, destroying boardwalks, piers and houses

Ecuador’s national risk management office is warning those living or visiting the coast to take precautions against high surf that is inundating many-low lying areas. Since late Friday, large waves have destroyed boardwalks, piers and some homes and businesses and experts say the worst is yet to come.

Some towns in Esmeraldas province suffered major damage from the high surf. (El Comercio)

The higher than usual ocean level is associated with the El Niño phenomenon, meteorologists say, but is made worse by global warming. The risk management office said all of Ecuador’s coastal provinces have suffered some damage, including severe beach erosion. They warn that dangerous conditions will continue until December 26.

The worst damage has occurred in Esmeraldas and El Oro Provinces, where several boardwalks and piers have been destroyed. A number of homes and businesses have also been reported destroyed or severely damaged. Over-washes have been reported on dozens of roads and highways and a number of high-rise condominiums report sea water in garages and lobbies. Risk management says it expects to receive more damage reports.

Local officials have put out red flags on some public beaches, warning vacationers to stay clear of the surf. “The situation is critical on some popular beaches in Santa Elena and Manabi Provinces since there are tens of thousands of Christmas tourists in the area,” said a risk management spokesman. “People are attracted by the big waves but they need to understand how dangerous they are.”

A report issued last year by Ecuador’s oceanographic institute warned of rising sea levels due to global warning. “This will make the seasonal high tides and rough surf much more damaging in the coming years and could force some people to move inland.”

The report predicted that dozens of high-rise apartment buildings on the coast will need to be abandoned, some within 10 years. It said buildings in beach communities in Esmeraldas Province as well as in the cities of Manta and Salinas are most at risk.