Playa de Oro received a government grant of $35,000 to build a concrete wall (or dyke) in front of the village along the river to stop the village from flooding as it did about 2 years ago. They are doing the work themselves, with the older men wiring cages together to be filled with river rock, and then later concrete is put on the outer wire of the cages to solidify the barrier wall. The rest of the village was hard at work moving rocks by boat up from the river to fill the wire cages. They also brought a big backhoe with a huge bucket in through the jungle to prepare the edges of the wall. It was working there while Grace was there, doing mass excavations along the front where the old washrooms are.
This is the rainy season in the region, causing washouts and landslides on the roads throughout Ecuador. Grace and her small tour group left Playa de Oro last week, only to find out that very afternoon the roads washed out going in/out from being able to travel towards Playa de Oro, so they left just in time. Both our main route and a longer route that we sometimes use as an alternative were both blocked. Grace got out of that area just in time, only to get trapped up in Intag Valley in the little village of Apuela for a few days because of landslides blocking the roads in and out. The rains are so bad that there was no drinkable water, it is so full of mud you can't even boil it clean. Grace seemed to take it all in stride and the group went on enjoying themselves, going fishing and things like that. Grace was staying in contact with me to let me know what was going on, she's a trooper. After a few days of being trapped there, the rains stopped for a day and Ramiro was able to get her out with his jeep. They finally made it to Otavalo, (right on schedule) where even the city water there is muddy from the tap. Grace says local people were telling her the rains were worse than anyone could remember.
That afternoon when they got back to Otavalo, Julio called Ramiro--Playa de Oro had flooded severely after Grace left and they experienced a lot of damage. A lot of the reason there was so much damage was because the backhoe had ripped the river banks up while they were working on building the dyke, and all the cages and rocks were not in place yet, and this caused the bank to be very unstable. It sounds like some of the bank on the front part of the village caved in. They lost 4 houses completely--I assume but do not know for certain yet, that these would be the 4 houses in the very front of the village--Clements's, Mercedes, Mauro's, and I forget who the 4th house is there. I think no one was killed or severely injured from the reports received so far. They lost a lot of personal things from homes, such as Julio lost his little generator and things of that nature. They lost several cows and all the crops near the village and by the river. The water went all the way up and into the church, which is near the back of the village. Julio, Carlito, and the village mayor were all in Quito at the time, and I assume that is why the boat and motor were not secured, but they lost the boat and motor we just bought less than a year ago for tourist transport. The boat motor would not have been lost if Julio had been there, he would have held onto it and floated away with it, if he had to.
This is the damage report just based on the first initial phone call from Julio about the flood, and I asked Ramiro to ask them for a more detailed list of losses and the status of things the next time he talks to him. Probably the most critical thing for the village right now is they probably do not have any clean drinking water, and the longer term problem is that they lost their crops and some of their farm animals they depend on for food, and we know they don't have enough money to go out and just buy food to feed themselves until their crops have time to regrow. Ramiro says the rains are worse than in past years, and many people are having problems like this. For now, they just have to survive the rest of the rainy season, which usually doesn't ease up until after March.
Obviously until I get more details, I have canceled any tourism reservations I had for PDO for the next month, and will not accept tourists until I get confirmation the village is in condition to accept visitors. I don't know what we are going to do about the boat yet either. I'll keep you posted when I get more details on the condition of things at the village.