Although recovering and burying the dead will remain the top priority for weeks to come, many earthquake survivors are worrying about the loss of businesses and jobs.
“All the business has stopped,” said Ricardo Iglesias, a tour operator and real estate developer in Manta. “There’s no fishing. There are no tourists. Most of the stores are closed, even the big ones. It’s hard to get money because the ATMs don’t work. I’m very worried for the future and how people will make a living around here. I think this recovery could take several years,” he said.
Iglesias said he will have no choice but to close his real estate business. “That market is dead and it could take years before it comes back, not just in Manabi and Esmeraldas but in Santa Elena and Salinas too,” he said. “The foreigners will go to Quito and Cuenca to buy. It will probably be good for them.”
For many in the earthquake zone, earning a simple living will be the number one priority. “I have all my equipment and can start making meals again tomorrow but there’s no one to buy them,” says Antonio Calderon, who has operated a small beachside restaurant for 15 years with his wife Josefina. “My customers won’t come back for a long time. Who will want to come here?” he asked.
A group of fisherman in Bahia de Caraquez, gathered on the beach Saturday, trying to find out when they can start working again. “Most of the boats are okay but the fish buyers are gone,” said Gustavo Parra, who has been in the fishing trade for 25 years. An official from the government’s finance ministry planned to meet with boat owners and fisherman on Tuesday, Parra said. “Maybe we will know something after that.”
On Friday, President Rafael Correa told residents in Jama that reestablishing the economy will be a priority of the restoration process but search and recovery and damage assessments are priorities in the short term. “The tourists will return, the fish are still in the ocean, and this is still a beautiful place,” he said. “We will get business back up and running and get people back to work as soon as we possibly can.”