For decades, Zaruma has been the scene of intense gold mining activity, which takes place through the opening of tunnels even with explosives under the city.
On Monday, Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso extended for 30 days the "emergency state" decreed in December in Zaruma, a city in the province of El Oro that was affected by landslides caused by sinkholes resulting from illegal mining.
"The objective of the state of exception is to attend to the event and the affected inhabitants, as well as to prevent similar situations in the future," the Presidency said.
On the night of Dec. 15, the inhabitants of Zaruma witnessed the emergence of a sinkhole on Colon Street, which swallowed a house in just 40 minutes. Later, the hole reached 25 meters in diameter causing the collapse of another house and engulfing a vehicle.
The next day, the Lasso administration declared a state of emergency in an “exclusion zone” and sent 130 soldiers to prevent illegal miners from continuing to weaken the city's soil with tunnels that even go through the subsoil of houses.
On January 20, the Finance Ministry allocated US$2.7 million for the rehabilitation of the sinkhole formed under the city and for other damage caused by the collapse, which sank several buildings and left some 300 people homeless.
The authorities then promised new disbursements depending on the progress of the work and budget availability. For decades, Zaruma municipality has been the scene of intense gold mining activity, which takes place through the opening of tunnels even with explosives under the city. In 2016 and 2019, authorities filled in two similar sinkholes to prevent tragedies.
In the last decree signed by President Lasso on the situation in Zamora, it is specified that the exceptional measures will take effect as of February 14.