Earthquake in Ecuador: “The end of the world”

Earthquake in Ecuador: “The end of the world”

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Ninja Taprogge, CARE Germany

One minute seems to be enough to turn the world upside down. How a child witnessed the earthquake in Ecuador.

A Saturday in April. It is the day of her baptism. Tatiana has been preparing for this day for weeks. She is looking forward to a dinner with her parents, siblings and relatives which has been planned for a very long time. The feast will be memorable. Before getting ready, the family is resting on the couch. Suddenly, the walls start to wobble. Jorge, Tatiana's father, takes his daughter's hand and pulls her to the ground. “I did not know what happened. I thought it would be the end of the world”, says the six-year-old girl.

Tatiana listens to homes collapsing in her neighborhood. Outside, electrical cables tear down, pipes are damaged. Water penetrates the house of the family of five. The most powerful earthquake since 1987 strikes Ecuador. Over 500 people lose their lives, more than 8,000 are injured. “The air whistled through our house. It sounded as if a ghost would speak to me”, remembers Tatiana. “We moved together with the house and our furniture. We literally rode a wave.”

When the earth calms down, they see the extent of the destruction. There are large cracks in the walls. Their house is uninhabitable and all their belongings are ruined. Small towns in the north-west of Ecuador are particularly affected by the earthquake with over 1,100 homes destructed and more than 23,500 people living in self-built shelters.
Even Tatiana's family lives outside the city in a makeshift tent, in the mountains. They built themselves a roof from sticks and plastic sheeting. During the day, the whole family returns to their house to see what can still be salvaged and to try to rid the structure of debris. “As soon as the sun goes down, I'm terrified. My home is a ghost town. I have seen a man take away dead bodies. I do not want to be here anymore”, adds Tatiana said with tears in her eyes. “When the earthquake hit, I hurt my head. I have never been this scared. My godmother died in the earthquake. When I think of my baptism, I will always remember her dying.”
In recent days, there have been hundreds of aftershocks. It is deeply traumatic, especially for children. They are afraid to return to the cities because they had to watch as friends and neighbors were buried under rubble. “We urgently need psychosocial support for children and adolescents in the region”, says forty-one year Jorge, Tatiana's father. During the day, many children return to their former homes to help cleaning because they cannot go to school. The earthquake has destroyed more than 280 educational institutions. Within the next few weeks, CARE plans to support children and youth through recreational activities and psychosocial assistance to help them recover from the shock and trauma of this devastating event.