Communities west and south of Cuenca are warned of El Niño vulnerability

Jan 16, 2019

The National Risk Management Secretariat (Sgnr) is warning authorities in several cantons in Azuay and Cañar Provinces of their vulnerability to the El Niño weather system developing in the Pacific Ocean.

Cars navigate a recent landslide in the Cajas Mountains. (El Tiempo)

Pucará, Santa Isabel, Camilo Ponce Enríquez, Cuenca, Suscal and La Troncal were named in the Sgnr’s most recent advisory which recommended that the communities take immediate action to prepare for flooding and landslides due to heavy rains.

Sgnr clarified that the warning for Cuenca applied only to the western areas of the canton in the Cajas mountains and near the border with Guayas Province.

“There have already been numerous road closures due to landslides in these areas and it is critical that communities affected update their security plans now,” a Sgnr advisory said. “The experience of the 1998-1999 El Niño showed us the awful power of this weather phenomenon when highways between the sierra and the coast were closed for as long as a year.”

El Niño is a naturally occurring weather event that warms the ocean surface, raising sea surface temperatures to above average in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. World Meteorological Organization forecasters predict that there is a 75 to 80 percent chance that an El Niño will form within the next three months, bringing heavy rain and flooding to coastal regions of South and Central America and to some parts of North America.

In recent weeks, heavy rains have caused flooding in all of Ecuador’s coastal provinces.

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