Last week, the river that is the only connection between Playa de Oro and the outside world, Rio Santiago, flooded and pretty much wiped out the village.
Here is a link to a Spanish language report on the flood.
My Spanish is not up to reading the report, but Tracy Wilson, who works for Earthways and is trying to restart the eco-tourism program that allowed me to visit (and who told me about the flood) provided this translation:
River Flood devastates Playa de Oro
The rivers of the North zone left their channel. The water devastated crops and houses.
The 342 people who inhabit in the parish Playa de Oro, whose populated center is based in the corner Eloy Alfaro, live a nightmare due to the increase on the volume of the Santiago river.
The fear is that the canoes that before were berthed at the border of the river, now are tied in front of the houses, since the river grows of unforeseeable way and devastates everything what there is to his step. In hardly seven days the river has been overflowed on four occasions and has inflicted casualties to the agricultural plots of the zone who have lost their production, also have died cattle, poultries, and pig. In the last month the river has overflowed seven times, remembered Renán Caicedo, president of the Parochial Meeting.
To travel to Playa de Oro has become an adventure, in which the passengers of the fragile boats gamble their lives. By vehicle, one travels until the town of Selve Alegra and from there is necessary there to continue the trip in boat, during one and half hour, to arrive at the village of Playa de Oro. So far, the trips from and towards the community are only made if it is cases of emergency, since navigation is risky and until the most experienced motorists they refuse to leave for fear of being dragged by the current.
Gina Caicedo, inhabitant of the town, said that the floods have destroyed their plantations, which maintains the community without outside food sources. "When the river is grown, as it is now, it is impossible to go travel to obtain food, the boats sink due to the current and we were isolated, right now we do not have anything to eat", said.
David Ayoví, 66 years of age and president of the community, assured that 32 years ago, a similar phenomenon happened that was on the verge of erasing the small village from the map. "We are preparing ourselves to evacuate the town", assured.
This past Friday, the president of the Parochial Meeting met with the settlers to explain to them on the evacuation plan that will be applied in case that the situation in the zone worsens.
Playa de Oro inhabitants solved to form monitoring brigades that will observe the behavior of waters of the river the 24 hours.
The population lacks telephone service and there is no cellular service. In the nights they illuminate themselves with a generator that was bought by the own comuneros, which ignites it from 19h00 to 22h00.
A delegation of Playa de Oro inhabitants announced Tuesday what has been happening with the flooding, but according to the affected ones, the Civil defense has diminished the damages and it has not sent personal to aid the families and to acknowledge the magnitude the tragedy.
Photo caption: The farm plots were devastated by the underflow of the Santiago river. Most of the harvests are used for the subsistence of the inhabitants of this zone.
Tracy says that donation checks can be sent to Earthways, indicating that it is for Playa de Oro flood relief. Her email to me did not provide an address, but www.earthways.org lists this as their address:
20178 Rockport Way
Malibu, CA 90265
Alternatively, Tracy says that she can collect donations by PayPal:
My paypal address to send donations to is tracy (AT) touchthejungle.org Please
mark the subject as PDO FLOOD RELIEF. The paypal account name will say "Wild
Trax" which is my business.
For your general interest, www.touchthejungle.org is the web site for the conservation project, a joint effort of the village of Playa de Oro and Earthways, which created the opportunity for me to visit this remote and wonderful place last year.