Quake shatters paradise

This is the home of Karl, Lora and Faith Evans in Coco Beach Village, Ecuador, after it was destroyed by an earthquake last month. The family is now living in Strasburg. Courtesy photo

STRASBURG — The Evans family was getting ready to eat dinner on April 16, a night just like any other. Karl and Lora Evans left Strasburg nine months prior to retire in Coco Beach Village, Ecuador, with their 17-year-old daughter Faith. They were working part time as Faith worked through her junior year of high school online.

It was paradise until the Earth started throttling beneath them.

“We were in our kitchen area huddled together,” Karl Evans said. “The intensity of the shaking and how violent it was is mind-boggling. It’s so hard to describe. Everything is breaking, you can hear things falling, glasses shattering. You’re actually moving yourself because the house is swaying, shaking, vibrating.”

Although they didn’t know it at the time, a convergent fault beneath their feet rattled the Earth with a 7.8-magnitude shock for 52 seconds. The family huddled together in the kitchen while their home split into pieces.

“If we hadn’t been where we were in our house, there’s a very good chance we would have been killed,” Karl Evans said, noting that slabs of concrete had fallen onto empty beds throughout the house, and whole interior walls caved in on rooms, covering the floors in shattered glass and concrete.

Karl and Lora Evans and their daughter Faith, center, moved to Strasburg after an earthquake destroyed their home in Ecuador last month. Jake Zuckerman/Daily

The quake hit at 6:58 p.m. local time and cut off all power to the house. The Evans were barefoot, and left to put themselves back together to navigate out of their house amid a minefield of sharp, jagged debris.

The Evans family didn’t leave Coco Beach Village for a week and a half while they arranged transportation to Quito, Ecuador,  and a flight back to the U.S. In the meantime, they had a firsthand glimpse at the wreckage the earthquake left behind.

Coco Beach Village is an upscale, gated development in a poor, Ecuadorian fishing village. Karl Evans said the quake did no favors for the already impoverished natives.

“They were really poor, and [now] they don’t have anything to recover,” he said. “Their housing is now bamboo poles with black plastic wrapped around it.”

Lora Evans said the Ecuadorian natives are “basically living like refugees.”

A concrete slab fell inside the master bedroom of the Evans home in Ecuador. Courtesy photo

Karl Evans said the Ecuadorians, many of whom were friends, have a dire need for shelter, a steady water supply, sanitation, septic facilities and education for the children. They need mosquito nets and repellent, as the wet conditions and lack of shelter facilitate the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses such as the Chikungunya virus, dengue, and the Zika virus.

According to a report by Reuters, 654 people died in the quake. The first few days after it, the Evans had no way of telling their relatives of their well-being. A neighbor who made it to Quito was able to let the Evans’ relatives know they were still alive.

The family had to pack all they could find in the rubble – 10 suitcases of clothes and some personal items – until they could make it home.

“We had to pack our lives up,” Faith said.

“But we still had our lives,” Lora Evans said. “And that’s what’s most important.”

Residents walk along damaged buildings in Jama, a village adjacent to Coco Beach Village in Ecuador. Courtesy photo

Until the family made arrangements for the nine-hour drive to Quito and eventual flight home, they stayed at a neighbor’s house that was left intact. The three of them shared a couch together, and hardly slept.

“No one wanted to sleep in a bedroom because we didn’t want to be too far from the exit,” Lora Evans said.

Eventually, the family secured a van to take them to a hotel near the airport where they said they decompressed for a few days before flying home.

After nine months of retirement in their brand new home on the equator, the Evans family flew in to Dulles International Airport.  They were picked up from the airport and taken to Lora Evans’ mother’s home, where they have been staying ever since.

The family is readjusting to life stateside. In Ecuador, they didn’t use calendars or alarm clocks —  they lived at their own pace. Now, Lora and Karl Evans are working part time until they can figure out their next step.

While conditions aren’t ideal, the family said they are glad to be alive and despite the wreckage, they  said they feel like they’re the lucky ones. And more than anything else, they said they want to help.

Faith and Lora Evans are brainstorming ways to raise money for those in the devastated region.  Karl Evans is contemplating returning with relief supplies.

Before they left, he gave away all the clothing, toiletries, food and water the family could not take back to the United States, but he said that’s not enough for him, especially after two more quakes hit the country on Wednesday.

“We may be homeless, but we still have a lot more than a lot of them have,” Faith said.

The family’s future is about rebuilding –but all three want to find a way to help those back in Ecuador.

Lora Evans noted that people see the aftermath of earthquakes on the news, but it’s not personal.

“Now that we’ve experienced it and seen with our own eyes how devastating this situation can be, this is very personal. We very much want to help the people of Ecuador as much as we can.”

The family recommends that anyone wanting to help the Ecuadorians to contact either Samaritan’s Purse or Project Hope, both of which are providing emergency relief.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com