Seven people are missing as rescuers clear debris after a wave of mud and debris swept through the small town of Alausi.
More than a dozen people have been killed after heavy rains caused a mudslide in southern Ecuador.
In a statement on Monday, Ecuador’s Risk Management Secretariat (SNGR) said at least 16 people were killed and about 500 others were affected by a wave of mud and debris that swept through the small community of Alausi on Sunday night.
“We have had to witness a terrible tragedy,” Transport Minister Dario Herrera told the Reuters news agency in Alausi, located in central Ecuador about 317km (197 miles) south of the capital, Quito.
“The first thing is to attend to and evacuate people from the houses,” Herrera said.
Debido a los deslizamientos de tierra en Alausí he dispuesto la activación inmediata de @Riesgos_Ec y de todas las carteras del Estado. En estos momentos se están movilizando equipos de bomberos de Guamote, Chunchi, Riobamba y Cuenca para la atención a ciudadanos afectados.
— Guillermo Lasso (@LassoGuillermo) March 27, 2023
President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency earlier this month in 14 provinces impacted by extreme weather.
Twenty-two people have been killed due to heavy rainfall since the beginning of the year as the Andean nation struggles to cope with the downpour.
SNGR said that 16 people were injured and seven remain missing following the landslide in Alausi, where images from local media showed civilians and emergency workers looking through debris with only torches to guide them.
Lasso said in a Twitter post that firefighters had been sent to assist residents.
“The Government is fully active serving all affected areas,” Lasso said.
According to SNGR, heavy rains have triggered more than 1,000 dangerous events such as flooding and mudslides since the beginning of the year, damaging more than 6,900 homes and destroying 72.
Earlier this month, a strong earthquake in the states of El Oro and Azuay killed 13 people and injured at least 126 others.
In February 2022, heavy rains also triggered massive flooding in Quito that killed at least 24 people.
In a statement at the time, authorities said that 75 litres of rain per square metre inundated the city’s La Gasca sector.