The recon team is currently staying at a house right next to where the San Jacinto River empties out into the Pacific Ocean (courtesy of a long time friend of one of our members), and it has been quite the adventure to get here – Los Angeles to Dallas to Quito, Ecuador where we spent the night and got a few hours rest. Day one in country we made our way back to Quito Airport and booked a flight to Guaycil where we then rented a 4×4 truck and drove three hours into Manta.
In Manta, we attempted to link up with our first in-country contact before dark but were unsuccessful in doing so due to the closed streets and massive amount of people clogging the open streets seeking refuge and relief. We made the decision to push on to our billeting about 20 KMs outside of Manta and arrived a little after sunset. Upon arrival, we grounded our gear, enjoyed a room temperature MRE, checked in with the National Operations Center, planned the next day, and then crawled into bed.
Day two in country we were up at sunrise, loaded our gear and bid farewell to our hosts as we did not know if we were coming back. Our mission was to link up with possible contacts and secure a mission for a follow-on team. Our gear secured under a tarp in the back of the truck, we pushed back into Manta. On the ride in, we were all well rested but were silent as we took in the beauty of the countryside and the rhythm of life happening around us. People reading the newspaper while waiting for the bus, folks out sweeping their sidewalks, farmers planting rice paddies, etc. As we got closer to Manta the destruction of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake began to become more apparent. We drove over cracked roads and bridges that had shifted off their foundation – there were collapsed buildings and even more that appeared would fall if there were a bit of a breeze.
We bounced around from hospital to hospital seeking out our contacts, which led us to the ECU 911 HQ where we got lead on a government official in Portoviejo about 10 km away. Traffic began to get very congested and as we got closer to our destination we noticed there were approximately 2,000 people awaiting food and water distribution. The desperation left the entire team silent again. We wanted to give them what we had but we needed to remain self-sufficient so as to not become a part of the disaster. Another dead end as we could and we were left feeling deflated – then the call came through – we now had a contact, we now had a potential mission. Remote medical and damage assessment was to be our mission. We were energized and spent the night planning for the arrival of the first wave. Feeling confident about tomorrow, we turned in.
Today, we woke up to roosters crowing, got some breakfast and are now getting ready to roll out to survey the surrounding areas of Bahia, Briceno, and Canoa (all of which have been hit hard). Once complete, we will start gathering supplies in preparation for the first wave of Team Rubicon members. The attitude amongst the team is very positive – this is why we do what we do. Even when we kept running into roadblocks and people saying no, we never give up.