“I know that I will make it, even if it takes me a year to recover”

Published: 11 November 2016 18:24 CET

Because of its geographical location, the Ecuadorian coast is prone to natural disasters. The landslides and flood during certain times of the year mark the daily life of the inhabitants of the Playa Prieta community, a beautiful valley irrigated by the crystalline waters of the Chico River, located within 15 km from the capital of Villa Nueva de San Gregorio de Portoviejo, which belongs to the Rio Chico parish in the municipality of Portoviejo, Manabi province. In spite of these unexpected events, the inhabitants have been able to recover their crops every year and have a calm lifestyle. However, when two disasters happen simultaneously, the blow is much harder.

​It seems like nature has had no mercy for this community. Only a few days before the earthquake hit on 11 April 2016, a flooding had destroyed part of its sown fields and caused considerable damage to households and streets of the community. During five days, the inhabitants of Playa Prieta community planned the recovery of their fields and started working on a plan that would allow them to regain their income to support their families.

The work was started and people were full of hope to regain some of what was lost during the flooding. But it did not happen. Five days later, at 6:58 pm on 16 April, a new terrible event would hit the thriving town of Manabita: a catastrophic 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck their town and drove them to despair. Everything they had built totally collapsed, and the community went into panic: they could not believe it. Families were not only mourning and in pain, but they also lost the few things they had after the flooding due to the irreparable damage caused by the earthquake.

​Ninety houses from the community were affected by the quake. Entire families were on the street and had lost their source of income. They had to gather the few things they had managed to save, and moved to other places. Nexar Barreiro, who has lived in Playa Prieta since his childhood, was one of the neighbours who suffered the consequences of the disaster. He had to move out with his son because his house had collapsed.

Nexar was engaged in planting lemon, cocoa and bananas. The flooding ruined most of his crops, and the earthquake ended up destroying what was left. Despite these bitter moments, the inhabitants of Playa Prieta still hope for recovering the peaceful lives they had before being affected by the two disasters. They hope to go back to normal in his beloved Playa Prieta.

"Things got complicated. Now we have no place to live and no income from our land; however, after the flooding and the earthquake I try to keep calm, because now I know that no one can fight against nature", says Nexar. Despite the difficulties, he has been rebuilding his home little by little and recovering his land. "I believe in God and I know that, with His help, I will make it, even if it takes me a year to recover," he says.

​The community of Playa Prieta received assistance from the Ecuadorian Red Cross during the emergency period. On several occasions, 307 families from the area benefited from tool and kitchen kits, blankets and tarpaulins. "There is no doubt that this support is very useful, and I am very grateful for this gesture," says Nexar. His greatest wish is to recover his farm and make it "more beautiful than before."