Three weeks ago President Rafael Correa said that data indicated that the in-coming El Niño was weakening slightly, and that it would not be as bad as the 1997-1998 event that wreaked havoc on Ecuador’s coastline.
The government has reversed course, however, and last week said the weakening was a short-term anomaly and that El Niño continues to strengthen. In fact, the latest water temperature readings show that it is officially the strongest El Niño on record.
The U.S. weather agency NOAA also reported the higher water temperatures and warned of the growing strength of El Niño.
Two weeks ago, the government declared a state of emergency in 17 provinces, including Azuay. The order gives the government extraordinary powers in case of natural disaster.
Meteorologists say that El Niño should begin affecting the coast in mid-December, although areas of the northern coastline have already been affected by heavy rain and flooding. The weather should deteriorate through February before improvement begins, they say.
The government is rushing to complete several flood control projects west of the mountains and say they will be operational within weeks.