Unpredictable: Waiting for Earthquake Aid (Part 4)

 

* Submission for the Daily Prompt: Unpredictable

Part 4 of the Earthquake Series
Days 3 & 4 after (April 18 & 19 2016)

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A condemned building in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador

By the morning of the 3rd day after the quake, many more troops had arrived in the area as well as a large number of “Bomberos” or firefighters from another city that was much less affected. It was more than a little shocking to us that they did not appear to come equipped with supplies. The military was mainly patrolling the area from what we could see. The night before that they had announced by loud speaker that were instituting “martial law”. I didn’t catch the full details of what exactly they were enforcing, but at least part of it was to keep citizens as well as looters off the street in the night hours. No one was to be away from their home base in the hours of 10 pm to 6 am.

The bomberos were walking the city and giving a general inspection of the buildings. They were marking the buildings with various labels, such as dangerous, condemned, or do not enter… but in the Spanish variations of the words.

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A partially fallen house after the earthquake in Ecuador.

We saw many people leaving the area on these days. I think it was a combination of several factors: 1) their buildings were being labeled dangerous 2) the roads that we had heard were impassable must have improved for the military & bomberos to have entered the area 3) there was not food or running water to be found here 4) citizens were starting to talk: fears of epidemics were beginning to surface over concerns of trash, decay, and no public places for human defecation.

It made sense that people who could afford to leave and had somewhere else to go, would attempt to do so. We were also in the beginning stages of this process, but we did not have a car and only sporadic local phone service to reach our realtor and taxi driver.

We fed the soccer kids again that morning.
We initially denied them the drinking water that they asked for because we were getting dangerously low, and we could not neglect the welfare of our own children. But, upon a few moments of reflection we felt terrible in our decision. We called the kids back. Carlos talked with them and we came to understand that 30 of their family members had been drinking from a single cistern, that was now empty.
We then divided our remaining bottled water with them and agreed that the next day we would have to start boiling & filtering the water in our cistern.
We sadly informed them, that we would also be out of rice by the end of next day.

Day 4
The first relief truck arrived late that afternoon. People came running on foot and by motorcycle. Many of them were only in sandals or even barefoot. Some of them said that they ran as far as 5 km when they got the news of the truck.
The people lined up and waited their turn. Apparently, they were entered into a raffle of sorts, to get 1 item each. The items included: 1 small flexible mattress, 1 bag of clothing, 1 bag of toys, or 1 bag of food.

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The first relief truck to arrive in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador. It had been nearly 4 days since the earthquake. It was the only truck that day to service a city of 20,000 people.

At first, the response was one of joy and elation. The first few people to leave the line were so happy that they were crying and in full fits of giggles. But, the mood quickly changed and the military moved in closer to intervene before fights broke out. It was clear that there would not be enough for everyone. Some people were outraged when they received the toy or clothing items, what they needed was food. And water. Apparently there was not any water on the truck.
About 30 mins after it’s arrival, the truck was empty and we watched many, many people turn back with long faces and empty arms. Too many people left this way, it was heart breaking to watch their spirits of hope dwindle into souls of despair.
There was nothing do but silently cry on the inside with them. Imagine being the one to return to the family, with nothing to offer in relief..
Once again we wondered how long it would be until substantial help and hope would arrive.

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Survivors fleeing with minimal public aid.

Tomorrow if the situation had not improved, we knew that it would be time to start boiling the water in the cistern, to offer ourselves and anyone we could help: drinking water. We knew the people here would be okay with that water, but none of us had drank any type of faucet water since we had arrived in Ecuador. We might not have the immunity to fight whatever might be in the water, that we had been told so many times NOT to drink. What would the cost be if we had no other choice?

Before nightfall, the soccer kids arrived and brought us dog food for Joey & Dante, that they had received in their food bags from the supply trucks. They were so excited that evening to give us something, rather than to take. We did not give them rice this time, we only had enough for us until morning. We were so grateful that they had received some of the relief supplies.

The military presence increased again that night and they re-stated the martial law, with increased gumption. This time they were more aggressive in their approach, claiming that anyone caught out in the streets would be taken into custody and questioned.

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Military trucks provided surveillance, but no aid: medical, food, or water.

It was almost impossible to sleep that night. It was noisy. The skies were full of helicopters, mostly medical flights that were taking the injured and deceased to other locations that were helping to relieve the stress on the overcrowded hospitals here. And the military trucks were big and loud, and they made the house shake when they passed. Just when I would rest, I would wake again.. thinking that it was another aftershock. We did feel relatively safe from looters and vandals, but we couldn’t help but wonder: where was the help? Surely these soldiers and firefighters must have relayed the message, that we REALLY need water. Food and water. Tomorrow would be 5 days since anyone had access to electricity, refrigeration, running water.
It seemed tomorrow would likely be the dawn of desperation. How much longer could “we” wait?

2 Replies to “Unpredictable: Waiting for Earthquake Aid (Part 4)”

    1. I’ve heard this many times, it’s a bit sad that the real stories aren’t getting out there. Luckily, for us, our story wasn’t one of great tragedy as it was for so many others.
      Thank you for reading, for commenting!

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