A 16-hour rain Saturday night and Sunday morning has Cuenca road crews working overtime to clear landslides and remove fallen trees from river banks.
The rain is part of a nationwide pattern that is causing coastal flooding and and dozens of landslides in the sierra. “We are seeing historic amounts of rainfall throughout the country,” Ecuador’s weather service said on Sunday afternoon. “This is part of the El Niño phenomenon and we can expect it to continue.”
The country’s Secretariat of Risk Management raised the natural disaster alter level from yellow to orange on Sunday, reporting that 17 of the country’s 24 provinces. The secretariat said it has never before seen such widespread heavy rain and is warning residents of low-lying area to take precautions.
More than a 100 families were forced to leave their homes in Esmeraldas Province due to flooding. Near Quito, three drownings have been reported.
Several major highways in the sierra have been affected by landslides. The highway between Quito and Santo Domingo is allowing a limited amount of traffic after being closed on Sunday morning. The highway connecting Cuenca and Guayaquil was partially open Sunday afternoon but road crews say they expect more slides.
In Cuenca, areas on the sides of the valley, where roads are cut into mountain sides, are experiencing the most closures due to landslides. Av. Las Americas was reduced to one lane in two place in northeast Cuenca on Sunday. Work crews were also clearing downed trees and debris from the banks of city rivers.
The Rio Zhucay the Tarqui overflowed their banks, affecting some agricultural areas. The Tomebamba and Yanuncay were flowing at full capacity and city officials were warning residents to stay off the banks. Police ordered several fishmen off the Tomebamba banks on Sunday.
Weather officials say there should be relief from rainfall in Cuenca and the southern sierra. They say there will light showers and Monday and Tuesday with dryer weather returning later in the week.