Posted by: calloftheandes | March 25, 2015

Missionary Nurse in Ecuador Assists with Flood Relief in Province Under State of Emergency

Photo courtesy of Vinicio Coloma, prefect of Bolívar province.

Photo courtesy of Vinicio Coloma, prefect of Bolívar province.

A medical missionary is helping her community respond to recent flooding in Ecuador, working with others to organize emergency relief for those left homeless by the disaster.

Martha Craymer of Reach Beyond (formerly HCJB Global) met with the town mayor and others from the Comité de Operaciones y Emergencias (Operating Committee for Emergencies or COE) for the town of Chillanes which is a cantón or county seat. Another committee, COE-Salud, is serving within the county’s main emergency response group. COE-Salud focuses on people’s health needs amid the crisis.

Martha Craymer

Martha Craymer

Craymer serves on both committees. Trained in nursing, she teaches health in the communities and is on a committee at a government hospital in Chillanes whose aim is to lower maternal/infant mortality. She has lived in Chillanes, a town of 5,000, since 1985 after having moved to Ecuador in 1973.

Craymer is helping to coordinate those who are hauling supplies and medicines to the affected areas. She continues to take part in disaster response meetings and observed that, “what is really neat to see is that the government agencies are all working together trying to coordinate things so that the best help possible gets to the people.”

She presently ministers alongside missionary Linda Arens, a teacher with Crossworld. They work together to empower teenagers—primarily girls—to develop skills and attitudes to advance themselves and to live a holy life. “We also have ladies’ meetings and individual Bible studies,” she said.

Chillanes Mayor Ramiro Trujillo first met with the emergency committees on Friday, March 20, after the disaster struck the nearby town of San José del Tambo earlier that morning. Trujillo presided over the meeting, attended by Craymer and personnel from COE-Salud and various government agencies that are assisting with housing. Also present were the local police, the parish priest and others.

“Around 2 a.m. the [Changuil River] overflowed its banks,” recounted Craymer. “There were 12 homes swept away in Tambo. One chapel from a town up the road, in Dulcepamba, is gone and the people that were missing were from a community just above Tambo.”

The missing persons were two women and a boy who were swept into the torrent; their bodies were found later. One woman is survived by a husband who, along with another child, clung to a rock, according to Craymer. Meanwhile, an orphan son survived after his brother and mother died in the floodwaters.


Photo courtesy of Vinicio Coloma, prefect of Bolívar province.

Photo courtesy of Vinicio Coloma, prefect of Bolívar province.

“The cantón of Chillanes has been declared a state of emergency because of all the flooding in Tambo, Sta. Rosa de Agua Clara and other communities in the (area),” said Craymer. Less than 24 hours after the crisis hit, the mayor sent “machinery out to the different roads, clearing them so that the health [department] people and others of rescue could get down to Tambo,” she added.

“There are 25 families in the evacuation center in a Tambo high school and 28 families in another school there,” added Craymer. “Two families are in the school in a town up the road from Tambo as well.”

A provincial office of the Ministerio de Inclusión Económico y Social (Ministry of Social and Economic Inclusion or MIES) set up the evacuation centers in the schools. Following the devastation early Friday, the area’s electricity was restored by Monday.

Photo courtesy of Vinicio Coloma, prefect of Bolívar province.

Photo courtesy of Vinicio Coloma, prefect of Bolívar province.

“The military has helped a lot with rescue,” noted Craymer. Ecuador’s national police sent elite forces staff (Grupo de Operaciones Especiales and Grupo de Intervención y Rescate) to conduct search and rescue and to assist with evacuations. In addition, two helicopters were dispatched to Tambo.

The town had been a 90-minute car trip from Chillanes, which is at a higher elevation with little to no threat of flooding, according to Craymer. As part of a meeting on Monday, Craymer and others of her committee visited the nearby community of Cerritos. “Other than multiple mudslides that were partially cleared and one being cleared when we got there, there were no other problems that we found,” she said.

Chillanes and other sites around Ecuador were featured in a front-page story in the Quito daily newspaper, El Comercio, on Saturday, March 21. A photo shows a dozen men ankle high in mud, working to clear what may be a roadbed underneath. A photo from just north of Quito at Calacalí shows backed-up highway traffic.

Another image shows heavy equipment scraping dirt and boulders from a main Ecuadorian highway (Alóag-Santo Domingo), leading from the highlands to the coastal plains. In the massive landslide pictured, three people (yet unidentified) were killed when their car was buried under tons of rock and mud.

Beneath a boldface headline that read, “Winter Strikes with Force,” the newspaper reported that at least seven of Ecuador’s 24 provinces reported emergencies after heavy rains buffeted the area for several days.

Chillanes, pictured near the bottom of this photo of Bolivar province in Ecuador.

Chillanes, pictured near the bottom of this photo of Bolivar province in Ecuador.


  1. […] in Chillanes, a town of 5,000, since 1985. When the cantón (county) of Chillanes was declared in a state of emergency two years ago due to flooding, Craymer responded by helping displaced persons find […]

  2. […] are fine in Chillanes,” said Martha Craymer of herself and her roommate, missionary Linda Arens, who live in Bolívar province. “Didn’t […]

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