Wildfires burn in the hills above Cuenca; Police shut down overcrowded nightclubs; 15,000 U.S. expats have voted; Holiday events go on despite Covid
Dry weather and careless agricultural land-clearing are responsible for more than a dozen wildfires in rural areas near Cuenca, the fire department says. Some of the largest fires continued to burn Monday near Turi, San Joaquin, Zona Soldados and in the upper basin of the Rio Machangara.
Juan Solis, spokesman for the Bomberos de Cuenca, said most of the fires were set deliberately to clear land for farming but several instances of possible arson are being investigated. “We urge residents to take exercise caution since humidity levels are very low and strong winds are causing rapid spread of the fires,” he said. “We have experienced very little rain in recent weeks and the dry conditions are conducive to fires. We are praying for cloudiness and rain in the coming days.”
He added that two large fires near Turi have burned more than 100 hectares.
Outside of the Cuenca canton, even larger fires are burning. In the Chico and Tiopamba sectors of Nabon, firefighters have yet to control blazes that have consumed 200 hectares in rugged mountainside terrain.
Thousands of expats vote in U.S. election
The United States Embassy in Quito estimates that 15,000 U.S. citizens living in Ecuador have voted in today’s U.S. election. The embassy says it is unable to provide specific numbers since votes are sent back to the U.S. through a variety of channels. “Historically, a large percentage of U.S. citizens living abroad have participated in U.S. elections and the response in Ecuador has always been above the average,” an embassy statement said.
Depending on U.S. state election laws, expats can vote in local and state races although today’s main attraction is the presidential contest between President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden.
There are an estimated 35,000 U.S. citizens living in Ecuador, the U.S. consulate says, about a third of them in Cuenca.
Holiday events go on despite pandemic
Cuenca’s independence holidays continue today with most events operating under Covid-19 social distancing protocols. Concerts and parades have been banned but dozens of special exhibits, presentations, parties and church services have been allowed to proceed with restrictions.
City hotels and restaurants report good business with the influx of thousands of mostly national tourists. Officials say most out-of-town guests are from Guayaquil and Loja.
Night clubs shut down for pandemic rule violations
At least six night clubs and restaurants have been closed since Friday for violations of social distancing requirements. In addition, three tiendas have been sanctioned for selling liquor to underage consumers. National Police report that they have doubled patrols during the holidays and expect to enforce more business closures for non-compliance with pandemic rules on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Cuenca’s Citizen Guard reports it has issued 60 citations for non-compliance with the face mask requirement and has broken up several unauthorized sporting events where alcohol was being consumed.