Latin America & Caribbean

Ecuador learns to grieve and hope at the same time

Funeral cortege for victim of Ecuador earthquake - 18 April 2016

While many families are still searching for loved ones, others are already having to bury theirs.

In the town of El Carmen, we see the funeral cortege of three members of the same family, killed in Saturday's earthquake.

The coffins are paraded through town on the back of pick-up trucks with the family walking behind, and hundreds of people from the community supporting them.

Five minutes later, a fourth coffin arrives, that of Joselo. By all accounts a huge football fan, Joselo's coffin is draped with the scarf of his local team and the pallbearers are wearing the football strip.

It is a sombre moment but the music is lively and the crowd is clapping, determined to mark the event with happiness, not just grief.

A few hundred metres down the road, we come across a digger working its way through a mound of rubble. This, we are told, was Joselo's house - or what's left of it. A three-storey building turned to rubble.

According to the neighbours, most had got out as soon as the earthquake struck. Joselo was trying to get his car out of the garage when the roof collapsed on top of him. A bloodied pillow and his T-shirt lie tossed in a corner of what now looks like a building site.

Dozens of former residents climb on to the rubble and sift through broken stones to recover whatever belongings remain intact.

"I had to make an unexpected trip out of town," says Emilio Solorzano. "Just as well, otherwise I would have been crushed, I'm standing on my bedroom."

And El Carmen got off lightly. Most of the town survived, just the odd building flattened. An hour down the road, in the town of Pedernales, the community has not been so lucky.

Some 80% of the city has been destroyed, according to Jaime Bolivar, who is part of a rescue team heading to Pedernales. Residents of El Carmen have been gathering bottles of clean drinking water, bananas and clothes for Jaime and his colleagues to deliver to those in need.

"It's terrible, it was such a strong earthquake, there are a lot of dead people, corpses are decomposing," he tells me.

"We are now getting access to other places where we rescuers are going to begin operations. The good thing is we are receiving help from abroad and that gives us strength."

But resources are stretched - not all communities have received the help they need - and they're getting increasingly desperate.

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