Coastal communities struggle to protect houses as high waves undermine beaches

Jan 29, 2016

As strong waves and higher than normal tides continue to batter Ecuador’s coastline, municipal governments are scrambling to figure out how to keep homes and business from falling into the ocean.

The beach near Crucita on Thursday. Credit: El Tiempo

The beach near Crucita on Thursday. Credit: El Tiempo

“They need to do something quick or these houses will be gone,” said Manabi fisherman Omar Sanchez after he had watched his storage shed fall into the water on Thursday. He added: “Even the big houses are about to go under water,” pointing to modern two-story structure down the beach surrounded on three sides by a rock barrier.

Meeting on Wednesday, some members of the Crucita municipal council urged the immediate construction of rock jetties to protect a dozen vulnerable structures, some of them only feet from the ocean. “We can’t wait or these properties will be gone,” she said.

A local citizen, however, questioned the wisdom of investing in jetties and sea walls at the beginning of an El Niño. “The waves will only get stronger as the storms come in,” said Paúl Ruiz. “I don’t think they can build anything to save these houses and, even if they do, they will be destroyed.”

A hundred kilometers down the coastline, in Santa Elena Province, officials are not only worried about houses, but the main Ruta del Sol highway. Because of the fear that part of the highway will fall into the surf, motorists have been forced to use one lane. A highway engineer looking at the damage between Monteverde and San Pablo said that his office is considering several options. “We need to keep traffic moving but we can’t invest money in projects that might be destroyed as the weather gets worse,” he said.

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Besides dealing with strong waves and tides, the coast is expecting more rain on Friday and Saturday. Guayas and Esmeraldas Provinces have been declared disaster areas due to rains on Sunday and Monday which have left hundreds homeless.

 

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