ECUADOR DIGESTFires close Quito park; Ecuador plans to import 1,000 Cuban doctors; Galapagos now on Google Street View

Sep 23, 2013

Quito’s sprawling Metropolitan Park remains closed as firefighters work to put out the last of the fires that have consumed more than 50 hectares. The city’s emergency operations office said that five fires continued to burn but should be extinguished on Tuesday.
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Fire burned in a number of other areas around Quito on Monday, including one near the new airport in Tababela, although authorities say firefighters are gaining the upper hand in those as well.

Quito fire chief Eber Arroyo said more 1,200 firefighers have been involved in fighting the area fires. In addition, the army has provided several helicopters for monitoring purposes. Arroyo says that arson is suspected in some cases and that he is working with police and said he expects that there will be arrests. He also said that some fires in rural parishes are due to the careless burning of brush and, in some cases, the ancient ritual of setting fires to attract rain.

August and September are typically the driest months of the year in the northern Sierra and emergency operations said that, to date, the fire season has been no worse than normal. Low humidity and sunny skies in the sierra were reported on Monday.

More Cuban doctors headed to Ecuador

Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa announced Saturday he plans to bring 1,000 Cuban physicians with a variety of specialties to Ecuador. The plan was the result of talks Correa had with Raul and Fidel Castro last week when he visited Cuba.

Correa said the plan would cost about $30 million, or about $30,000 per doctor.

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“Medical care is improving rapidly in Ecuador,” Correa said, “but many rural areas still don’t have enough doctors to cover the needs of the residents.”

Correa praised the Cuban medical education system that has sent thousands of doctors to work in more than 20 countries. “There is a lot we can learn from the Cuban system,” Correa said, adding that Ecuador medical educators are working with their Cuban counterparts to improve medical training in both countries.

Galapagos islands get Googled

Some of the striking landscapes of Ecuador’s Galapagos islands can now be explored online on Google Street View.

The launch of the new service marks the 178th anniversary of the British scientist Charles Darwin’s visit, which inspired his theory of natural selection. The high-definition 360 degrees pictures are a joint project between Google, the Galapagos National Park and the Darwin Foundation.

The pictures were taken with a special backpack camera during 10 days in May and many of the animals observed by Darwin in 1835 were captured on camera by Google staff.

Camera crews dived with sea-lions, trekked on the islands’ biggest volcano and accompanied a leafy meal of the famous giant tortoises.

Viewers can also have a taste of less famous Galapagos wildlife, including marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies and Frigatebirds.

As in other Street View projects, viewers can zoom in and out and move around the images.

“The natural history of this archipelago is very remarkable: it seems to be a little world within itself,” Darwin wrote after visiting the islands.

The Galapagos are available to browse on Street View alongside other remote places, such as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, and the Grand Canyon in the U.S.

Photo caption: Firefighters in Quito; Photo credit: El Comercio

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