LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. – A Lehigh Acres woman says it took her days to confirm whether her family and students in Ecuador were safe after a 7.8 magnitude hit the country on Saturday.
Carmen Cevellos lived in Ecuador for 25 years but is currently a retired resident in Lehigh Acres. Every year Cevellos has returned to the country for mission work with young children and even built a schoolhouse.
Saturday’s earthquake has created devastation and the death toll has risen to more than 400 people. But Cevellos just learned Monday that her sister is safe, though her family’s house is hanging off a cliff.
“It’s really sad. It’s really, really devastating,” Cevellos said. “They didn’t have much before now they have nothing. They lost everything.”
Cevellos also learned that the children she taught are now homeless. She still does not know whether her school building was destroyed.
Rescuers are working to find survivors as families look for food and shelter. The United States has offered assistance but Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, a staunch critic of U.S. foreign policy, has not responded.