Ecuador town suffers double disaster

ABDON CALDERON, Ecuador: First came the flood and then the “long, long” earthquake, a shaking so hard the two-story, covered market came down in a heap in this small town in western Ecuador.

Dazed residents began the week in flood waters up to their chests — and ended it Saturday evening with a devastating 7.8-magnitude quake.

“It’s only been a week and nature has punished us so badly,” said Nelly, a 73-year-old who declined to give her last name.

At least 235 people were killed across Ecuador, the government said.

In Abdon Calderon, 180 kilometers (110 miles) south of the epicenter, at least two people were killed in the collapse of the town market.

“On Monday, water flooded the town. There wasn’t a house that wasn’t submerged. The water was up to our chests in the main avenue,” Nelly said.

Then on Saturday, she said, the market came down “like a house of cards.”

Too fearful to stay indoors, she spent the night in the streets. Now she finds herself standing outside the flattened market, hugging herself to keep warm as she tearfully recounted the town’s double misfortune.

Scream for help

A short distance away a firefighter picked through the market ruin, looking for a way to retrieve the body of a man pinned under the mound of rubble and twisted steel.

“They’ve already taken the body of one poor little man out of there,” Nelly said.

When the earthquake struck, she rushed into the streets and saw that the market had collapsed.

“How can I not cry?” she sobbed. “There was a person trapped who screamed for help, but then the screaming stopped. Oh, it was terrible.”

Firefighters said when they arrived, the building had already been flattened.

“Two shakes and everything came down, all at once. We’ve found two victims so far,” said Alberto Santana, one of the firefighters on the scene.

‘God protected us’

In the town of Portoviejo, hairdresser Fernando Chavez, 45, was in his home at the back of his salon with his wife and three children when its ceiling was crushed by the rubble from a neighboring building.

When the quake hit “we wanted to react but we didn’t have time. We all got trapped in the dark and all we could do was press ourselves to the walls,” he told AFP. AFP