May 05, 2016

Are Expats Going Home after the Earthquake Disaster?

Yes, some of the expats and local folk are leaving the Ecuador coast as they have no home left to live in. Sources say some of them are moving to Cuenca. The earthquake completely decimated several small villages and towns along the central /northern coastline in areas like Canoa, Pedernalas, Portoviejo, parts of Bahia and Manta and small villages in between. 
We wrote about this area as being prone to earthquakes in several different areas of our DIY Ecuador Coast Travel Guide.  We were very clear at the time (2013) that Earthquakes were a serious matter in this area and was the reason we didn't live at the coast.  Those that purchased the guide and perhaps begrudgingly accepted the facts we presented and acted accordingly, are now likely on their knees thanking their lucky stars or their creator.  

Quote taken from 'DIY Ecuador Coast Guide'
Naturally, some foreigners are anxious that another earthquake will strike again, and it can and it will at some point in time. No one can predict when an earthquake will strike; that’s nature’s job.  Just a small bit of advice from us, “listen to your gut instinct” and play it safe.
 

In 1998 Bahia de Caraquez suffered a severe 7.2 earthquake that did considerable damage to many of the condominium buildings that stand abandoned today…from the outside they look fine but they are not livable. They never rebuilt these buildings; it would cost way too much money, money that Ecuador did not have; now only eighteen years later another one hits.
 

In our guide we call Bahia the Jewel of the coastline for a reason; not only is it the most picturesque town on the Ecuador coast, at least in our opinion but it has always been one of the more less expensive areas to live on the coast and that is partly because of the 1998 earthquake.  However, prices have risen substantially over the last couple of years, ever since foreigners decided to make Bahia their home. 
Quote 2013 from 'DIY Ecuador Coast Guide'
We explained in the Ecuador Coast Guide that the areas mostly affected by quakes extend from Manta as far North to Esmeraldas and that it would not be a good idea to set up house in these areas on the coast. As a matter of fact it was the main reason why we did not move to Bahia de Caraquez ourselves, our favorite beach town on the Ecuador coast and rent an apartment in a high rise back in 2012.
 

At that time, you could rent a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom, huge terrace penthouse apartment overlooking the bay side for $400, and that was the asking price!  We looked at it and even seriously considered the idea of moving from Cuenca; it had a magnificent 360’ degree view;  what stopped us was that Bahia has earthquakes and is the reason why we were not living in Bahia.
 

Many people live life thinking that “bad things won’t happen to them” but cautious people take heed. Isn’t that written somewhere in the ancient writings? Sometimes, actually in many cases, people’s greed and emotions overtake their senses and they sweep negatives of a place under the rug. That’s what some foreigners have done in these small Ecuador coastal towns and sadly, for them, some of them have lost their investment to an earthquake and many have lost their lives too.  If they were lucky enough to not have their property damaged, it will be difficult to get out of.
 

We make choices and then pay the consequences of those choices.  There is no home-owners insurance company that is going to pay out for a natural disaster. And even though rumor says the builders that built shoddy construction will have to pay, even multi million dollar insurance companies in the states go bankrupt due to natural disasters.  No one can withstand that kind of loss, except maybe Warren Buffet; Reality is you will probably never get a cent from anybody. 

Buy at your own risk as the saying goes. In this particular area, the risk was earthquakes. While others areas on the coast further south are prone to flooding. And we've been outspoken about all of these issues.

We are the ones that probably have a reputation for being outspoken and opinionated, sometimes suffering public scorn over it,  but its only because we actually care about people and can't stand the deception that passes for "expat culture".  The road is narrow, and few are those that traverse it.  It's sad that people lost their lives and had their "dreams" shattered, but it didn't have to happen. 

Quote taken from 'DIY Coast Guide'
Of course, there will always be folks that live in Ecuador and love the ocean and they will simply mover further south where there are fewer incidents of quakes but of course and sadly, Salinas is not immune to having earthquakes. It’s less likely but the chances are still there.
 

More and more people are saying (just read yesterday) that the altitude of Cuenca is not good for their health and they don’t want to move to the coast and they do not want to move back to the US, so they move on to another popular and often touted paradise on the travel abroad pumpers list. 

We’re quite sure there will be more and more people leaving Ecuador and less folks arriving until everything settles down enough where they can move this tragic event out of the forefront of their memory and live in peace. Although, we doubt there is ever a true “feeling of peace” when the trepidation of an impending earthquake at any time lingers in the back of your mind.
 

Recently when we were in Salinas we sat on the Malecon and watched as an older expat couple were moving out of their high rise apartment building; there was a huge professional moving truck halfway full with their furnishings; they are moving on, perhaps they are moving to Cuenca or maybe they are going home?
 

So, yes, some expats and locals alike are leaving the coast, especially from the northern part to start a new chapter of their lives. As one expat put it who is trying to sell her property in Jama Ecuador, “The Ecuador coast has become geographically uncomfortable”.  Perhaps there are too many blogs and too many books about Ecuador and the coast, and our "voice in the wilderness" gets lost in the wind.  

Until we write again, you might like to read these articles remembering some of the towns and villages after the earthquake. 
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

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