Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Drought - Power Outages & Fires (By: Mike)

Wild Fires
We arrived in Ecuador a week ago amidst the worst drought in 40+ years.  This has caused several grass fires here in Vilcabamba.  No one is really sure how they get started.  Some locals will burn their sugar cane fields to prepare them for the next crop so that maybe the cause.  There is no fire fighting equipment here in Vilcabamba so if a fire gets out of hand the fire equipment has to come from the provincial capital of Loja.  The problem with this is that it is a 45 minute drive!

Three days ago we noticed a fire burning on the mountain range to the East.  We watched it for a few days as it burned down the mountain towards at least one house.  It eventually burned out without harming any houses.

Last evening I walked down to the center of town to meet with Ivan who owns the company that installed the Internet connection in our apartment.  We were having connectivity issues so I was trying to hook up with him.  He wasn't there but I was told he might be back in a few minutes.  I decided that I'd wait a few minutes to see if he'd show up.  I looked around and saw an ex-pat that I had met the day before.  He was sitting across the street in the square chatting with a local.

I went across and we chatted for a few minutes.  Our friends Jack & Julia came by looking slightly frantic.  A grass fire broke out above the house they're renting.  They said they were looking for me because they where hoping to be able to store some stuff at our apartment.  I said "Absolutely!" and asked if I could lend a hand.

We grabbed a cap and arrived at their place in about 10 minutes.  We could see the fire in the next field above their house and hear the flames.  We went in and grabbed their papers and a bunch of their valuables.  They spent the night at our place.  In the end everything was fine.  We ended up making the best of it by hanging out, Jack & I played guitar, and the next morning Nani made us all a nice breakfast.

Another consequence of the drought is a lack of water to power the Paute hydroelectric plant which is Ecuador's largest.  This has forced the authorities to ration electricity.  They turn off the plant sometime after midnight and turn it back on at 9 AM.  This gives the reservoir a chance to fill up so they can allow the plant to run during the day.  They also shut the plant down from 4 PM - 5 PM.

Paute hydroelectric plant

Most stoves run on gas so you can still cook.  There is also water because the storage tank for the town is up the hill a bit so we still have water pressure.  It's not too bad.  I looked at the weather report and it looks like there's some rain in the forecast so hopefully that will help the situation.

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