Flooding rain batters the coast as La Niña transitions to El Niño; Citizen Guard evicts homeless ‘bridge dwellers’; Foreign resident found dead in park
Many areas of Guayaquil, including major streets, remain flooded following several days of heavy rains. The National Institute of Meteorology (Inamhi) warned Thursday that storms, fed by moisture from the Pacific Ocean, are expected to continue.
In addition to Guayaquil and Guayas Province, Santa Elena and Manabí Provinces are also experiencing torrential rain storms and widespread flooding.
“There is a stream of moisture flowing in from the Pacific that is expected to continue at least through the weekend,” the weather institute said. “This pattern began two weeks ago with the tropical cyclone and has continued since then due to rapidly rising water temperatures.”
According to government officials, 23 people have died with an estimated 27,000 “severely affected” by flooding since March 6. “We are experiencing unprecedented amounts of rain that have overflowed rivers, caused landslides and inundated roadways,” the national risk management office said Wednesday. “Large areas of agricultural land have been flooded and bridges have been destroyed and we ask residents in affected areas to take precautions.”
Inamhi meteorologists say that the La Niña weather system that has influenced Ecuador’s weather for the past 18 months is “transitioning rapidly” to the El Niño phenomenon. “For months, surface-level ocean temperatures were cooler than normal because of La Niña,” an Inamhi spokesman explained. “Since early February, this has reversed and we are seeing warming in the Pacific. This created conditions for the cyclone off the coast of Peru and is now fueling heavy rain. Even at depth of 100 meters, we are measuring temperatures that are one degree higher than they were in January.”
Although Quito has experienced some heavy rain and flooding, most of the sierra, including Cuenca, have not been seen excessive rainfall.
Citizen Guard evicts ‘bridge dwellers’
Cuenca’s Citizen Guard is continuing its campaign to remove homeless people from under the bridges on the Rios Tomebamba and Yanuncay. According to the Guard, there has been an increase in robberies and personal attacks in neighborhoods close to the bridges.
Since the first week in March, 15 men and 4 women have been evicted from bridges adjacent to the University of Cuenca and the University of Azuay as well as four other bridges. “There have been numerous cases of personal theft and physical confrontations in these areas and we are forced to take action in the interest of public safety,” the Guard said in a Wednesday statement.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the Guard removed four men from the Av. Unidad Nacional bridge on the Rio Tomebamba, claiming they were demanding money from motorists stopped at intersections. “The individuals were washing windshields at traffic lights and became aggressive when motorists told them to stop or refused to pay,” a Guard captain said. “There is an ordinance prohibiting window washing at intersections and because these men are bridge dwellers we are forced to remove them.”
He added that the men were also harassing people using athletic facilities at the Jefferson Perez Coliseum.
Foreign resident found dead in Auxiliadora park
A man described as a foreign resident from North America was found dead Tuesday in the Plaza Maria Auxiliadora in the historic district. According to a food vendor in the park, the man appeared to be sunbathing in a grassy area but remained in the same position for several hours before he called police.
The man was described by police as being “about 40 years old” and showed no sign of injury. Although they did not release his name, police said the man carried identification indicating he lived in an apartment in the Puertas del Sol neighborhood. The body was removed to the municipal morgue for an autopsy.