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Ecuador earthquake: Emergency response

Oxfam is responding to the devastating earthquake that hit Ecuador on 16 April.

This was a very strong earthquake that has already claimed over 500 lives, and left more than 7000 injured. 

Damage to buildings and infrastructure is severe, there is not a moment to waste. We urgently need your help to reach the people affected by this emergency.

Help save lives   

David Illera

Oxfam's response

Oxfam has deployed 10 people to assess the damages and define the strategy for response:  one of the main needs is confirmed to be water and sanitation. Oxfam has sent its first two-ton load of aid to secure basic hygiene and clean water among affected communities. The aid is part of a multi-agency airlift coordinated via the Spanish government.

Oxfam has worked for more than 30 years in Ecuador improving the life conditions and livelihoods of small farmers, and also raising awareness of women rights and violence against women. Oxfam has previously responded to other emergencies in the country, including helping people after the Tungurahua volcano eruption in 2008 and severe floods during that same year.

"We have been in touch with the Ecuadorian Red Cross and other national organizations. They all agree that the most urgent need is for safe drinking water and storage, as well as shelter for thousands who have lost their homes."

Enrique García

Oxfam humanitarian coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean

The situation in Ecuador

What is needed to help the people affected?

According to information gathered in Quito by the assessment team, the most urgent needs are water, sanitation, health and shelter:

  • Access to safe drinking water is a priority
  • Access to water trucks and cisterns
  • Shelter for those who lost homes.

The main concern is the risk of infections and diseases among people at shelters due to poor sanitary conditions, 21,000 people are reported being sheltered according to OCHA. People in homes without running water also have a high risk of diarrhoea and other infections.

Populations in the most affected areas are in need of food as access to markets is limited and some are closed .

What caused this earthquake? 

Earthquakes are common in Ecuador, although the latest is believed to be the most powerful since 1979. There have been seven magnitude 7 or greater earthquakes within 250km of the latest once since 1900, resulting in hundreds of fatalities. The country is located on the boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates, which accounts for the seismic activity and many volcanoes in the country. Earthquakes have sometimes produced tsunamis which pose a great risk to coastal communities.

How does this compare with other recent earthquakes?

The latest earthquake was magnitude 7.8 and is believed to be the most powerful to hit Ecuador since 1979. Although stronger than the Nepal earthquake in April 2015, initial reports suggest it is not nearly as destructive - partly as a result of better construction standards in Ecuador.

According to the US Geological Service, there have been seven magnitude 7 or greater earthquakes within 250 km of the latest one since 1900.

  • On 31 January  1906, a magnitude 8.3 earthquake occurred 90 km to the northeast of the current one, resulting in a tsunami that caused 500-1,500 deaths.
  • On 6 March 1987, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake resulted in approximately 1,000 deaths.