Ecuador tries to put the pieces together a month after quake

AP News
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Posted: May 16, 2016 2:27 PM
Ecuador tries to put the pieces together a month after quake

PEDERNALES, Ecuador (AP) — 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.

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 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.