Offshore earthquake swarm causes alarm; Cuenca neighborhoods complain of increasing crime; Football refs refuse to work following attack in Ambato

Aug 22, 2022 | 16 comments

A series of earthquakes centered off the coast of Manabí Province has kept coastal residents on edge since late last week. Sunday’s 5.4 and 4.9 magnitude quakes, felt strongly in Manta, Bahía de Caraquez, Jama and Portoviejo, were the most intense so far, causing minor cracking in some structures.

Workers in Manta gather in the street following a recent earthquake.

According to the Geophysical Institute, it is impossible to know if recent earthquakes are a prelude to a larger quake or a “settlement process” along the Pacific subduction zone. “In most cases a swarm of seismic event such as these is a positive sign, since it means there is adjustment taking place on a fault line,” the Institute said in a bulletin. “It can be part of the process of releasing pressure. In a minority of cases, a swarm can be an indication that a stronger quake is imminent. This happened in 2016 with the 7.8 earthquake that caused extensive destruction.”

The bulletin continued: “We ask residents of Ecuador’s coast to remember that they live in one of the most active earthquake zones on earth and always remain prepared. This is where the Nazca plate collides with the South American continental shelf and large earthquakes are always possible.”

Cuenca neighborhoods confront ‘crime wave’
Representatives of 90 Cuenca neighborhood associations met Saturday with city and National Police officials to discuss what they call a “rising tide” of crime. “We are facing an unprecedented onslaught of criminal activity and need the help of police and the government to control it,” said Víctor Quito, president of the Cuenca Association of Neighborhoods. “We are desperate for solutions.”

Quito said residents are reporting an increase of home robberies, assaults, car theft, business robberies and extortion and kidnapping threats.

National Police Captain Luis Escobar acknowledged an increase of crime and said that additional patrols would be added to areas showing more criminal activity. He said car thefts and burglaries of commercial premises have shown the greatest rise in recent months. “Through August 5 of this year, we have had 58 car thefts compared to 29 in 2021 and 31 in 2020,” he said. “We have also investigated 114 business robberies this year compared to 95 in the same period of 2021 and have made arrests in 60% of these cases.”

Escobar also told the neighborhood reps it is important to consider the “big picture” and that overall crime has increased by only 5% in Cuenca in 2022. “Any crime is too much but we must focus on the areas where we can make a difference. Some crimes, such as personal assaults, have actually dropped since 2020 and 2021.”

He added: “We are not facing the extreme crime waves of Guayaquil and Manta.”

Football referees refuse to work following attack
Four Pro League football games were cancelled Sunday when referees refused to work following an attack on a referee Saturday in Ambato. Referee Álex Cajas was pushed to the ground and then punched by a coach from Macará during the game between Aucas and Macará.

The Ecuadorian Association of Soccer Referees said it would not referee games until rules are clarified to protect referees. “In rejection and solidarity of what happened Saturday at Bellavista Stadium in Ambato, we have made the decision not to participate in the four Sunday matches. We will not put our members at risk until we know the rules have been strengthened and will be enforced,” the association said in a press announcement.

Macará assistant coach Héctor Chiriboga attacked Cajas after the referee awarded a free kick to Aucas, first pushing him down, then hitting him with his fist. On Sunday night, the management of the Macará football team announced that Chiriboga had been fired.

Among the Sunday games cancelled was Cuenca’s game with Emelec in Guayaquil.


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