Posted by: calloftheandes | May 25, 2016

New Round of Tremors Follows 3rd Medical Team in Ecuador’s Quake Zone

by Ralph Kurtenbach and Harold Goerzen

Ecuador’s coastal area was shaken again by earthquakes on Wednesday, May 18. The temblors occurred just a month after an April 16 quake upended tourism towns and cities across two provinces, leaving some 660 people dead and over 4,600 injured.

The pair of tremors, interspersed by aftershocks, occurred near Mompiche in Ecuador’s northern province of Esmeraldas. Just before 3 a.m. a 6.8-strength quake jolted people from their sleep. Its epicenter was around the community of Rosa Zarate, according to the Ecuador-based Geophysical Institute. Throughout the morning hours, aftershocks continued periodically. Then around noon another 6.8-strength quake struck the same area.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced on Twitter that one person died and at least 85 were injured. People had already been unnerved by the killer 7.8-strength quake that hit at 6:58 p.m. Saturday, April 16, leaving nearly 30,000 displaced after homes, businesses, churches, hotels and other structures were thrown down. Victims may begin to wonder if life will ever return to normal.

In the port city of Guayaquil, a Reach Beyond broadcast partner (HCJB-2) was unaffected by the tremors, according to Allen Graham, who is directing the facility. About 100 miles inland, people in Quito felt the shaking of both the 3 a.m. and 11:47 a.m. temblors, the earlier one of which lasted nearly a minute.

“Whoo!” exclaimed Reach Beyond’s Hermann Schirmacher on his Facebook account, describing the earlier May 18 aftershock’s magnitude and saying, “I jumped out of my bed and got to the roof. All fine here.”

Days earlier, Schirmacher and three others from Reach Beyond had returned to Quito after days of medical caravan work in Manabí province where physicians Drs. Mauricio Coronel and Steve Nelson treated 327 patients in rural zones during several days. The province had suffered widespread damage and loss of life in the initial quake.

Doctors Steve Nelson and Mauricio Coronel.

Doctors Steve Nelson and Mauricio Coronel.

“The acute needs related to the earthquake have been dealt with,” said Nelson, whose time in Manabí province this month showed him “an ongoing issue with people [which] is the anxiety of a possible further earthquake,” fed by rumors claiming a new quake would top the April 16 event.

“The people were still living outside of their homes,” Nelson added, “even though their structures seem to be fairly stable, they were still living in tarps and tents outside their homes.” Reach Beyond’s physicians had been invited to work in the disaster zone under the auspices of Ecuador’s Ministry of Health, and that working relationship continues.

Following the May 18 temblors, Correa said that some areas along the coast had lost power and said schools would be canceled nationwide as a precaution. Some previously ravaged homes and buildings suffered more damage in today’s tremors.

“These sort of aftershocks are normal, but that doesn’t mean they’re not scary and can cause damage,” Correa said in a televised address.

Hermann Schirmacher

Hermann Schirmacher

He added that aftershocks of this magnitude are not unusual for up to two months after a major quake like the one Ecuador experienced.

Schirmacher, in a May 17 interview with Radio Station HCJB in Quito, told of leading two medical teams (late April and early May) that showed him areas of Manabí province “that I hadn’t even seen before on a map even though they’ve always been there.”

On one occasion at the end of the road, Nelson, 70, mounted a horse for the climb to a patient’s house. Two volunteer psychologists and Schirmacher walked, as did the patient’s relative who carried Nelson’s medical bag.

“Many times people may not have had such a great need, but perhaps an earnest conversation with a physician where the doctor heard them,” Schirmacher told HCJB’s Edwin Chamorro, a key liaison following the April quake that rocked Ecuador. He and the radio station served as a linchpin that brought together Reach Beyond’s Hospital Vozandes-Quito and a Ministry of Health doctor who requested help in Esmeraldas province.

Schirmacher went on, calling the medical consults offered during the May 6-13 trip “a secure place that proved a listening ear where people could unburden themselves. We also saw this in conversations with the psychologists—something that was more than getting a cooking pot, some sugar or a box of supplies. There was great need for people to be listened to by someone willing to walk with them through this difficult time.”

When the vehicle could go no farther, Dr. Steve Nelson mounted a man's horse and rode as the man walked behind with the doctor bag.

When the vehicle could go no farther, Dr. Steve Nelson mounted a man’s horse and rode as the man walked behind with the doctor bag.


  1. […] An excellent blog about these aftershocks and Reach Beyond’s third medical team is on Reach Beyond’s Latin America blog, CalloftheAndes Weblog. […]

  2. […] many in Esmeraldas province those fears were realized on Wednesday, May 18, when a pair of 6.8-magnitude aftershocks, several hours apart, shook the area. A person died and several dozen suffered light injuries. The fear of returning home is very […]

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