‘Cyclone Yaku’ brings flooding rains, landslides to most of Ecuador; 122,000 Venezuelans granted residency under new program; Correa called to testify
Describing it as “extremely rare,” Ecuador’s weather agency says “Cyclone Yaku” will continue to cause flooding rains throughout the country. The weather system is centered off the coast of Northern Peru and has produced record rainfall in Guayas, El Oro and Manabí Provinces since Tuesday.
The National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (Inamhi) said no part of the country will escape the impact of the cyclone but said rainfall amounts will be the highest in the coastal region. It added that the flooding rains will continue until Monday or Tuesday of next week and warned of dam breaches, roadway flooding and landslides.
On Wednesday, an emergency was declared in Chone, near Manta, where floods killed three people. On Thursday, flooding knocked out electricity for tens-of-thousands in Guayaquil while street flooding immobilized dozens of cars and flooded low-lying homes.
Vladimir Arreaga, Inamhi’s director of Forecasting and Early Warning, explained that the cyclone was intensifying the effects of seasonal rains. “The rainy season in Ecuador arrives in January and February so we expect additional rainfall this time of year,” he said. “What is different, at least for the next week, is that the cyclone greatly increases the rain, causing extreme flooding.”
Arreaga added that rising sea water temperatures are “adding fuel” to the atmosphere. “What we are experiencing is the convergence of several factors that allowed the cyclone to form and to circulate. We are in the equatorial convergence zone, where upper atmosphere steering wind currents are weak and typically do not support cyclonic weather systems.”
In Cuenca, public utility company ETAPA warned residents that road flooding and landslides will continue through most of next week. “Some roads will be impassable during times of heavy rainfall and we advise motorists not to enter flooded areas,” ETAPA said. “We also advise residents to stay away from rivers when they are at flood stage since the banks can be undercut and collapse.”
Although some areas of Cuenca experienced significant rainfall Thursday, the heaviest occurred to the north in Cañar Province. Dozens of homes in Azogues and Biblian were flooded and the Transportation Ministry reported at least three landslides on the Pan American highway between Azogues and Zhud.
Flooding was also reporting in Molleturo where a landslide temporarily closed the Cajas highway.
122,000 Venezuelans granted residency under new program
More than 122,000 Venezuelans have registered for residency in Ecuador under a special program established last year to allow them to work and access public services.
According to Andrés Naranjo, director of Immigration Services, the program acknowledges that many Venezuelans and some Colombians have entered Ecuador through “irregular” channels. “They have broken traditional immigration rules but this must be forgiven because of the extreme situation they face at home.”
According to Naranjo, another 110,000 Venezuelans and Colombians have been granted residency through the traditional process. “Some of these migrants arrived four or five years ago and have now integrated into the population,” he said.
An estimated 425,000 Venezuelans are currently in Ecuador, according to Immigration Services. The census office says 55,000 live in Quito, 45,000 in Guayaquil, 35,000 in Santo Dominngo and 25,000 in Cuenca.
Correa called to testify in Coca Codo Sinclair case
The Attorney General’s office has summoned former President Rafael Correa to testify in the Sinohydro corruption case against former vice president Lenin Moreno and 36 others. Correa will be allowed to answer prosecutors’ questions via videoconference since he lives in Belgium, the AG office said.
Correa, who was president during the contracting and building process of the massive Coca Codo Sinclair hydro-electric project, acknowledged receiving the notice but did not say whether he would comply.
Despite suggestions that he was aware of the bribery taking place during the project, Correa has denied any direct involvement.