Late last Saturday, on April 16, Ecuador was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, and then hit with a wave of 135 catastrophic aftershocks. With over 2,500 people injured and a current death toll of 500, it’s the worst earthquake to hit the country since 1979. Coastal cities, such as Manta, Portoviejo, Pedernales, Guayaqil, and smaller, more isolated towns near the earthquake's epicenter are among the most affected. Some of the country's most popular tourist regions—the Andes, Amazon, and Galapagos Islands—were spared of any major destruction. Tremors were also reported throughout Ecuador’s neighboring countries, Colombia and Peru, but the destruction has been felt throughout the world.
For travelers who have already booked trips, or are considering booking a trip, the most important thing to know is that it's still safe to travel to the country. All airports and most hotels are open, all public transport is operational, and public services, including power and water, in major cities such as Quito are functioning just fine.
“The best way to help Ecuador is to visit Ecuador,” says Quito's mayor, Mauricio Rodas.
Travel is one of the best ways to support the country, but donating to the relief efforts is a close second. With much of the country in a declared state of emergency, rescue teams have been working around the clock, and President Rafael Correa has made an appeal for international aid—thus far, Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela, Peru, and the European Union have contributed.
Update: The U.S. Geological Survey reported that a 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck 62 miles northwest of Ecuador's coast late on Thursday night. Fortunately, there were no immediate reports of damage and no tsunami warning.
Here are five ways you can contribute to the relief efforts:
1. Ecuadorian Red Cross
Over 800 volunteers and staff with the Ecuadorian Red Cross are delivering aid supplies, providing psychological support, and leading search-and-rescue operations. Learn more about how to help and donate here.
In the days following the earthquake, CARE is focused on food, water, and disease prevention. The humanitarian organization will also be working to remove rubble build temporary housing. Check out CARE’s website to donate or volunteer.
UNICEF’s emergency efforts include food, water and sanitation supplies, shelter, mosquito netting, school kits and tents, and healthcare provisions for the people of Ecuador. Support UNICEF in Ecuador here.
4. Ceiba Foundation
A relief fund has been coordinated with Ceiba Foundation, Finco Mono Verde, and Third Millennium Alliance in order to provide much-needed resources to the isolated communities in the northern part of Jama County. They are collecting provisions (tarps, water filters, non-perishable foods, etc.) and donations—join the effort here.
5. Operations USA
The Los Angeles-based international relief org is focusing on healthcare, water purification, shelter construction, and transportation supplies in the regions most affected by Saturday’s earthquake. Check out how to donate to Operations USA here.