Canadian expat family torn apart by Ecuador earthquake

Published:  27 Apr at 6 PM
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A Canadian family living in Ecuador lost mother and son to the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake when their apartment collapsed.

Pascal Laflamme. his wife Jennifer and their two children Laurie-Ann and Arthur had emigrated from Montréal to Ecuador’s coastal city of Bahia de Caraquez after travelling to Reunion Island and Mauritius to visit friends. Their globe-trotting lifestyle, a long-held dream of discovering the world, tragically turned into their worst nightmare when the earthquake struck.

The family's rented apartment, set in a recently built, seemingly solid three-story construction, seemed at first as safe as houses, but soon cracks appeared in the walls and rain water began to seep through. Later, the couple discovered the building had been thrown up on the original foundations of a two storey house which collapsed during the 1998 earthquake. A lack of reinforcements to the foundations and the adding of the third story turned the new construction into a potential death trap.

When the earthquake hit, Pascal was video-chatting with his parents in Canada and was hardly aware of the room shaking. Ten seconds after the first tremor, the concrete ceiling collapsed, burying him in rubble. When he woke up, dazed and bleeding, he found himself in a tiny coffin-sized space walled in by giant slabs of concrete, any one of which would have crushed him to death.

Laurie-Ann had been in her room with her brother and the family dog when the tremors began. She remembers the lights flickering on and off and the doors shaking before the room fell apart and she took cover under a door frame. She attempted to push her brother and the dog under as well, but everything went black as she heard her parents screaming in pain and fear.

Unable to get to her parents due to the rubble, the last thing she heard was her mother saying she loved them very much. Once rescued, the realisation that her mother and her brother had died hit Laurie-Ann very hard. She and her father are now in Quebec with relatives and are attempting to come to terms with their devastating loss. Friends from Mauritius are with them, helping with the healing process.
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