Death count rises to 16 in Ecuador floods

Persistent rains and floods have killed at least 16 people since mid-January, leaving Ecuador in a state of disaster as concern over food shortages grows, President Rafael Correa said Saturday. "This is not an emergency, this is a disaster," Correa said on his weekly radio program. "We don't have enough resources to help all the victims." Rains and swollen rivers have caused flooding in 13 of the country's 24 provinces, destroying homes, crops and infrastructure and costing the economy US$200 million, Correa said. At least 300,000 people have been affected, including 20,000 evacuated from their homes since the storms began in mid-January, Civil Defense officials said. Agriculture Minister Walter Poveda warned Saturday of possible rice shortages, as rising waters have destroyed 110,000 hectares of crops, including rice, coffee, corn, banana, cacao and sugar cane.