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World

Ecuador Tries to Put the Pieces Together a Month After Quake

President Rafael Correa has hiked taxes to fund the recovery but says it will take years to rebuild the beach towns and tourist hubs leveled by the quake

Tents set up for people displaced by last month's earthquake stand in rows at the new bus terminal in Pedernales, Ecuador, photo: AP/Dolores Ochoa
1 year ago

PEDERNALES, Ecuador — A month after a devastating earthquake flattened the Ecuadorian beach town of Pedernales, people are still living in tarp shelters and schools remain closed. Just a third of the rubble has been swept from the streets.

In this May 14, 2016 photo, hair dressers who lost their shop in the earthquake one month ago cut clients' hair on the sidewalk in Pedernales, Ecuador. Photo: AP/Dolores Ochoa

In this May 14, 2016 photo, hair dressers who lost their shop in the earthquake one month ago cut clients’ hair on the sidewalk in Pedernales, Ecuador. Photo: AP/Dolores Ochoa

Some of those whose homes were wrecked survive by scavenging through the debris and panhandling. And some go hungry.

Officials deployed a giant flag over the town Monday to commemorate those who died in the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that killed 660 and initially left tens of thousands homeless.

Aid poured in from around the world, but officials say more than 7,000 people remain without a home.

Ecuador was already struggling economically before the disaster. President Rafael Correa has hiked taxes to fund the recovery but says it will take years to rebuild the beach towns and tourist hubs leveled by the quake.

He urged the country to keep its spirits up Monday.

“The pain is immense, but the hope is greater,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that the country had proved its mettle in the face of the tragedy.

The situation is much better than it was a month ago. International workers are working with the government to set up hundreds of temporary schools and living spaces, and victims are getting psychological and medical services.

But more than 100,000 children remain out of school, according to a report released Monday by the United Nations Children’s Fund, which said it had not received the donations it needs to attend to the disaster.

In this May 13, 2016 photo, Josefina sells grilled "pincho," meat on a stick, and corn on the cob, in the main square of Pedernales, Ecuador. Behind her grill stands the town's main church, which was destroyed by last month's 7.8 earthquake. Photo: AP/Dolores Ochoa

In this May 13, 2016 photo, Josefina sells grilled “pincho,” meat on a stick, and corn on the cob, in the main square of Pedernales, Ecuador. Behind her grill stands the town’s main church, which was destroyed by last month’s 7.8 earthquake. Photo: AP/Dolores Ochoa

In Pedernales, residents are living much of their lives outside. On Saturday, a family prepared a pig to eat on a mat in the sand in the midst of makeshift shelters. People set clothes to dry on the roofs of their tents, and had their hair cut in barber’s chairs set up on the street.

Estrella Vera, 62, was worried the government may try to resettle her and her 10 children in another town father from the coast.

“We are a fishing community. We need to stay here and rebuild our town however we can manage,” she said.

GONZALO SOLANO
DOLORES OCHOA

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