It was raining on March 19, 2015, when Cruz Ramiro Quinatoa got a call from his daughter, Carmen Quinatoa. She lived about 15 minutes away in the small community of San Pablo de Amalí. She told him the river was rising, and she was scared. He tried calling her back many times that night, but she never answered.
The next morning, he ran down the mountain to check on her and his 8-year-old grandson, Mauricio Albuja.
“They were swept away. Three houses: two friends’ houses and the house of my daughter. She went away with the water, and I couldn’t save her,” he said, choking back tears. His grandson also died in the flood.
Overall, the floods that night along the Dulcepamba River took three lives — Carmen, Mauricio and their neighbor Glenda Cuji Pala — and destroyed 25 acres of farmland and 10 houses.
UC Davis computer models have since indicated that the flood was not a natural disaster. Only an average amount of rain fell during the 2015 flood — an amount expected every five to seven years.
The community and research suggest that the 2013 installment of an 8-megawatt, run-of-the-river hydropower plant put them at increased flood risk. Its construction by multinational corporation Hidrotambo S.A. dynamited bedrock, deforested parts of the floodplain and moved the river’s channel 400 feet closer to San Pablo de Amalí, displacing the water toward the community.