With chances of an El Niño at 90%, government authorities plan response strategies; 1982 and 1997 El Niños devastated many coastal communities

Jul 14, 2015 | 2 comments

Ecuador’s Secretariat of Risk Management (SGR) says chances that an El Niño will affect the country later this year and in early 2016 stand at 90% and that preparations for bad weather should be put in place as soon as possible.

The 1997-1998 El Niño caused widespread flooding on the coast.

The 1997-1998 El Niño caused widespread flooding on the coast.

During a meeting with officials from various government ministries on Monday, SGR representative Maria del Pilar Cornejo said that a nationwide strategy should be formulated to allow agencies to work together to mitigate damage.

El Niño is a weather phenomenon that results from higher than normal temperatures near the surface of the Pacific Ocean and causes severe flooding and drought in much of the world.

In June, the Climate Prediction Center of the U.S. National Weather Service raised the chances to 90% for an El Niño to develop during the northern hemisphere summer and early fall. Ecuador’s Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology agrees with the analysis.

Cornejo said that drills are being held in preparation in provinces which could be most affected by this event, especially the Ecuadorian coast.

The prospect of El Niño brings back painful memories for Ecuadorians from 1982 – 1983 and 1997 – 1998, when heavy rains caused major destruction, killing dozens of coastal residents. The country sustained huge infrastructure and crop loses and hundreds of homes were washed into the ocean. Landslides destroyed highways, isolating many communities for months.

Those El Niños produced severe drought in the mountains, including Cuenca.

Health minister, Carina Vance, who participated in the inter-agency meeting in Samborondón, emphasized the necessity of spraying campaigns and other forms of prevention to avoid the breeding and spreading of dengue and chikungunya, diseases affecting the Ecuadorian coastal population.

Cornejo said that every municipality was given a map of at-risk areas, which comprise the most vulnerable places for mudslides or floods.

Carlos Naranjo, director of Ecuador’s National Institute of Meteorology, said that the 90% probability of an El Niño is not an indication of the strength of the event. “The severity is very hard to predict and we will know more about this in two or three moths,” he said. “At this point, all we know is that the El Niño will probably affect us to some extent.”

 

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