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12 dead, thousands displaced by Ecuador floods

world Updated: Feb 22, 2008 10:26 IST

AP
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Twelve people have been killed and thousands displaced as severe rains and floods battered this small Andean nation, officials have said.

Victims include a three-week-old baby, who died with four others on Friday when an ambulance flipped in strong currents southeast of Quito, Civil Defence told The Associated Press.

Four others drowned in separate incidents, while three died in accidents caused by the rains.

Heavy rains falling throughout the country since mid-January have caused some of the worst floods in country's history and have affected some 60,000 people, according to estimates by Ecuador's Civil Defence.

Five coastal provinces have flooded, forcing thousands to abandon their homes, and four others have lost bridges and highway sections to rising rivers.

Ecuador's government declared a national state of emergency Wednesday, ordering the military and national police to help with aid in the affected regions.

"It is a major disaster for which the country was not prepared. Historically, this is the worst flooding some areas have ever had," Gustavo Larrea, Minister of Internal and External Security, said on Ecuavisa television on Thursday.

Argentina sent 17 tonnes of medicine, blankets and tents on Thursday, the first country to help victims displaced by the floods and the recent eruption of Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano.