Government warns of El Niño threat

Jan 11, 2019

Ecuador’s National Risk and Emergency Management Service (Sngre) is warning that conditions are favorable for the formation of the El Niño weather phenomenon. Sngre issued advisories to the coastal provinces of Esmeraldas, Manabí, Guayas, Santa Elena, El Oro to begin preparations for heavy rainfall, flooding and landslides.

Guayas Province suffered devastating flooding in tghe 1997-1998 El Niño.

Ecuador’s meteorology institute is reporting that upper-level ocean temperatures are rising in the Pacific Ocean, providing fuel for an El Niño. “This does not mean that a major El Niño will occur but indicates that conditions are favorable for development,” a Sngre spokeswoman said Thursday. “We are painfully aware of the tragedy of the 1997-1998 El Niño and understand the consequences of not making proper preparations in the coastal region.”

During the last two weeks, much of the coast has experienced heavy rainfall, with record amounts recorded in Guayaquil and Manta.

Historically, El Niños have the largest impact on coastal and litoral regions. Their impact on the Andean region is highly variable, meteorologist say. Although they can mean above-normal rainfall, they can also bring drought.

Ecuador has suffered several devastating El Niños during the last century, including the 1997-1998 event that had an impact similar to that of the 2016 earthquake in terms of loss of life and reconstruction costs.

Due to landslides and flooding, the 1997-1998 El Niño destroyed Ecuador’s railway system as well as most of the coastal highways. In some cases, it took two years to rebuild roads and highways connecting some  communities to the outside world. In addition, the El Nino left 30,000 people homeless and caused outbreaks of malaria and cholera.

Sngre predicted that there is a 90 percent chance of an El Niño but said its intensity cannot yet be estimated.

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