The side of a hill in Ecuador's capital city of Quito suddenly collapsed, resulting in at least 24 deaths. Officials said part of the small mountain was weakened by days of continued rain.
On Tuesday, soil, mud, and debris swept over several homes and a large sports field, burying some people alive. At least eight houses were completely destroyed by the landslide, with dozens more sustaining damage. The Quito Security Department said that more than 48 people were seriously injured.
Local residents joined police and firefighters to help find and rescue trapped survivors. The landslide occurred after nearly 24 hours of continued heavy rains in the area.
One of the residents said she thought there was an earthquake when the hillside suddenly collapsed amid the pouring rain. The resident said she saw rocks and water breaking through her home's doors and windows. Luckily, she was able to flee with her family before her building was completely destroyed.
Most residents weren't able to save any of their belongings as they tried to escape the landslide. Water and mud swept most of the victims, whose bodies were later found lifeless.
Authorities said that waves of mud, some as high as 10 feet, carried away motorcycles, cars, and anything that wasn't bolted down in the neighborhoods of La Gasca and La Comuna. Most of the areas affected were those located below the slopes of the Ruco Pichincha mountain.
The incident was the worse landslide to occur in the country in nearly two decades. Torrential rains poured throughout the city on Monday, which caused a build-up of water at a nearby gorge.
Footage uploaded by residents showed a wave of mud and water taking down electricity poles and trees along residential streets. Another video showed a man struggling to hold on as muddy waters attempted to drag him down.
The city government has dispatched workers to help in the rescue operations. Rescuers said they heard cries for help from those trapped below the mud, leading them to call for those in the area to keep quiet so they could hear them.
Rescue operations remained dangerous as smaller waves of mud and water continued to cascade from the mountains. Residents and rescue workers were in danger of being buried as soil from the mountain continued to shift. Authorities have not yet ruled out the possibility of another major landslide in the area.
Quito mayor Santiago Guarderas blamed the deadly landslide on the heavy rains that had saturated the soils of the mountain. The city government has set up temporary shelters for the residents in the area.