April 17, 2000
Heavy rains claim 15 lives in Ecuador capital

                   QUITO, Ecuador (AP) -- Landslides caused by six days of nearly nonstop rain
                   have killed 15 people, wrecked homes and forced the evacuation of dozens of
                   residents in this Andean capital, authorities said Monday.

                   "We have a total of 15 people dead as a direct result of rain and landslides, close
                   to 25 people injured to varying degrees and nearly 30 homes completely
                   destroyed," Red Cross representative Rody Camino told The Associated Press.

                   The rains, coming near the end of the region's September-May rainy season,
                   started Wednesday and continued nearly nonstop through the weekend, causing
                   about 150 landslides and prompting the evacuation of some 180 people.

                   "We have had rain before, but not like this, with landslides inside the city," said
                   Quito Mayor Alfonso Lasso.

                   Lasso said 200 city workers with bulldozers, tractors and other heavy machinery
                   were working to shore up hillsides and dig out neighborhoods.

                   Ecuador's Meteorological Institute said precipitation in the first half of the month
                   had already reached 5.5 inches and was at a pace to set a record. Average
                   rainfall for April over the last 15 years has never exceeded 6 inches.

                   With more rain forecast for coming days, eight city districts were considered at
                   "high risk" of being hit by avalanches, Camino said.

                   Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.