by Elena Chuquimarca
QUITO, April 15 (Xinhua) -- When a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador's northern coast a year ago, Pablo Cordova was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As a receptionist at El Gato Hotel in Portoviejo, capital of Manabi province and one of the worst hit areas in the quake on April 16, 2016, Cordoba was trapped in the elevator between floors after the quake toppled the five-story building.
He spent nearly two days in the cramped space before finally reaching the outside world through his mobile phone.
"I came back to life, for me it was all like a miracle," said the 53-year-old while recalling his life-saving call to ECU 911, Ecuador's integrated emergency service hotline, a system designed and built by a Chinese company.
"Hello, I'm Pablo Cordoba. I have an emergency. I'm trapped and I want you to get me out," Cordoba repeated to Xinhua his words to the operator.
Not long after his call, the enclosed receptionist heard the sound of heavy machinery removing rubbles and was finally rescued, making him among the numerous survivors who owned their lives to the free 24-hour hotline.
AN INTEGRATED PLATFORM
The ECU 911 service, developed by the China National Electronics Import & Export Corp.(CEIEC), integrates the country's emergency response and rescue services into a single platform.
It includes police services, video surveillance with thousands of cameras, GPS, geographic information, and a smart analysis of resources, among others.
The system, which started its construction in 2011, has worked as an efficient relief command center in emergency. In August 2016, a group of 78 hikers, including 70 children, got lost in jungles in northwest Ecuador.They were located and rescued with the help of the system's geolocation function which zeroed in on one of the hiker's mobile phones and led rescuers to the site.
In daily life, the system works as a security network.
"In the streets, there are many cameras monitoring traffic, protests or any incident, such as a robbery or assault, in real time, so the police can respond," Quito resident Edison Chicaiza, 49, told Xinhua.
"China stands out for its capacity to create innovative technologies, and it's great that our country has received that for the ECU 911," said Dayana Jimenez, a university student.
Currently, there are 16 ECU 911 centers across Ecuador, including two national ones in the capital city of Quito and Guayaquil, its most populous city.
ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY SUPPORT
ECU 911's national director Andres Sandoval said the hotline has marked an "integral change in security" in Ecuador since it went into effect thanks to China's technological input.
China's CEIEC "has very robust technology: large-capacity servers, (and) support and emergency backup in electricity and telecommunications," Sandoval told Xinhua.
The center in Quito alone receives an average of 3,000 emergency calls per day, according to its operational director Diego Ripalda.
The software is integral. "From the moment the call is made, we are able to know who made it and where the person is located, and we can take the steps to send the nearest team to the site of the emergency," said Ripalda.
"Without the Chinese cooperation, we would not have all of the latest infrastructure and technology, and without that, we would not have made major advances in the area of citizen security," Ripalda added.
The system even enables three-way calling to better attend to emergencies reported by non-spanish speakers who need a translator.
The system and its "latest generation technology" are now considered a standard in Latin America, said Sandoval.
The European Emergency Number Association, which honors top-tier emergency services, presented ECU 911 with an international certificate of quality, turning Ecuador into the first Latin American country, and the fifth worldwide, to garner the recognition.
Ecuador is an increasingly safer country, in large part due to the drop in crime since the system was put in place, President Rafael Correa has noted.
In 2016, the homicide rate registered 5.6 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, marking a 30-year low, according to data provided by the country's Interior Ministry.