Hundreds of holiday swimmers were forced out of the water Monday in Salinas as a torrent of foul-smelling water poured into the ocean, the result of heavy rains that fell over much of the country on the first day of Carnaval. The rains triggered landslides west of Cuenca and Quito, forcing road crews to work through the night Monday to prepare for the heavy traffic expected on Tuesday.
According to the National Meteorology Institute (Inamhi), the rainfall covered most of the country from the sierra to the coast, with Guayas, Santa Elena and El Oro Provinces being the hardest hit. “We have received record 24-hour rainfall in parts of Guayaquil, Machala and Esmeraldas and expect more rain on Tuesday,” Inamhi said Monday night.
The Salinas ocean pollution was the result of a city decision to drain an overflowing retention pond two blocks from the beach. “The water was flooding streets and homes and we were forced to cut a canal to the ocean to release it,” the city maintenance office said. A claim by beachgoers that the drained water contained raw sewage was denied by the city. “It was brackish and smelled bad but there was no sewage,” a city spokesman said. “The sewer system was not affected by the release.”
Beach contamination has been a frequent problem during heavy rains at several popular beaches in recent years, particularly at Montanita, 60 kilometers north of Salinas.
In addition to Salinas, Ecuador’s risk management office reported extensive flooding damage in Guayaquil, where cars and homes were inundated by rains that measured as much as 18 centimeters Sunday night and Monday morning.
The highways connecting Quito and Cuenca to the coast were temporarily blocked by landslides Monday morning, with the Quito-to-Santo Domingo passage still closed early Tuesday. The transit commission said it had crews working around the clock in several locations in the sierra to have roads open on Tuesday as hundreds of thousands of holiday travelers head home.