The 12 foreign ministers of the 12 nations that are part of the Union of South American Countries, or UNASUR, scheduled a last minute meeting to discuss how the regional bloc will help Ecuador deal with the devastating 7.8 earthquake that hit the country last Saturday killing 602 people, injuring 12,500, flattening 7,000 buildings and causing serious damages to about 2,4000 more and leaving about 26.000 people homeless, Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Guillaume Long said.
"So far we have recovered 602 bodies from below the ruble at thousands of homes and buildings, where we have also been tremendously successful after rescuing 113 people alive," Long said. "We've cried ... cried ... we've cried so much living the drama and tragedy of the victims and their families."
But Long's voice and eyes saddened as he remembered the horror of watching rescue teams pulling dead bodies from underneath tons of rubble left behind by the deadly April 17 earthquake.
"We cried," he said taking a pause to regain control. "We cried ... cried a lot ... the scenes we saw as officials were extremely tragic and profoundly grave," Long said.
He said his government realizes today that they cannot deal with the gravity of the aftermath alone.
"You're not alone," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez told Ecuador. "The solidrity of the UNASUR nations is with you, sharing the suffering, the pain, the drama ... because with are one huge South American homeland ... soon, Ecuador will again pick beatiful roses born from this fraternity and solidrity."
"There has been an extraordinary response from at least 24 countries around the world, but especially from our neighboring South American countries and more so from the UNASUR nations who expressed their solidarity through aid and rescue workers," he said.
6 Interesting Facts About UNASUR
Long said Ecuador was satisfied with the existence of UNASUR because in these times of dire need, "the solidarity has proven that absolute integration is not just a dream."
UNASUR Secretary General Ernesto Samper agreed saying that from "a tragedy emerges integration."
UNASUR's foreign minister minister in Quito, Ecuador, on April 23, 2016. | Photo: teleSUR/Carla Gonzalez
Long and Samper also reminded all those present during the meeting that it's not only Ecuador that is going through some "very tough times," but also Uruguay and Chile, which after months of drought, torrential rains came down on both countries causing massive damages and leaving tens of deaths behind.
The Ecuadorean diplomat said over 2,000 rescue workers, mostly from UNASUR, were sent to help us deal with the drama of pulling bodies from underneath the rubble left behind by the powerful earthquake, but also with the extreme satisfaction of rescuing 113 people alive, which I've been told by international experts is an achievement worth highlighting," Long added.
Before concluding and announcing a new phase for Ecuador in dealing with the aftermath, Long said 6,998 buildings and homes were completely destroyed by the earthquake.
"But there are also 2,400 more buildings that have been seriously damaged and that are currently being meticulously being inspected to determine whether they too need to be rebuilt,", he said.
President Correa has been touring the most affected areas, which are the coastal regions of Manabi and Esmeraldas, where 99 percent of the country's victims are located, and recently said that about US$3 billion will be required to reconstruct the country.
The Latin American country is finalizing all rescue efforts, focusing on aiding all the victims of the earthquake and dealing with the hysteria, panic and fear among the population after 700 aftershocks, including a 3.9 a few minutes ago at 9:28 a.m. local time, which have many people living in the streets scared their homes will collapse on top of them.
The foreign ministers have begun to arrive to the UNASUR headquarters just some 10 miles north of the Ecuadorean capital of Quito, where the pro tempore presidency of the bloc will be handed over by Uruguayan Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa to his Venezuelan colleague, Delcy Rodriguez.
UNASUR had called on a presidential summit meeting a few weeks ago for this Friday, but it was cancelled due to the dire situation Ecuador is going through and the impeachment process that in words of British news agency Reuters has Brazil dipped in a grave economic and political crisis, which was one of the reasons why the region's head of states were gathering.
The meeting will be headed by UNASUR Secretary General Ernesto Samper, who will conduct the transferring of the pro tempore presidency of the bloc from Uruguay to Venezuela.
During the meeting, foreign ministers will draft a plan to adopt joint actions and measures to help the victims of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked Ecuador last week.
Following the devastating earthquake, countries in the regional bloc, such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Colombia, have donated tons of supplies and sent teams of rescue workers.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has been touring the affected areas of the country, mostly the coastal region, and supervising shelters, mobile medical centers and assuring that donations and aid are being adequately distributed among the tens of thousands of people affected by the quake.