19 year old Lautaro Mauri who has not been heard from since last Thursday. Photo via La Voz.

A desperate search is on for a 19-year old Argentine man who has not been heard from since last Thursday, two days before a devastating earthquake struck Ecuador and left more than 520 people dead and 4,000 injured.

The Ecuadorian Embassy released a statement yesterday saying that it still has no information regarding the whereabouts of Lautaro Mauri, who does not have a phone and has not been in contact with his family since April 14.

Speaking to Telam, Lautaro’s mother Claudia López, from Río Cuarto in Córdoba Province, said she believed that Lautaro had been in Loja, a city situated in the south of Ecuador, when the earthquake struck. Loja was one of the areas not affected by the 7.8 tremor, which hit the country at 6:58 PM on Saturday evening.

“The last I heard from him is when he contacted me last Thursday and said that he was in Loja and was going to stay there for a few days,” said López. “I am very worried because I do not know if he stayed there or if the earthquake caught him as he was traveling.”

She explained that her son has been backpacking for about five months, and usually makes regular contact with his family. “Lautaro speaks with me every three to four days, at most five, because he didn’t have much money, but the last time we spoke was Thursday.”

Lautaro’s mother said that her son made money by juggling and playing the guitar, moving from city to city. She says she knew that her son was with a Peruvian friend whom he met on the trip, and that he was shortly due to meet up with others to continue his travels.

Thousands of people have been made homeless following the earthquake. Photo via BBC.
Thousands of people have been made homeless following the earthquake. Photo via BBC.

Following the quake, rescue workers are working around the clock to help search for survivors among the rubble of collapsed buildings, roads and houses. The worst-hit areas are along the coast including the cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Pedernales, all popular tourist destinations. Thousands of people remain without shelter and to help relief efforts, the Ecuadorian government has deployed 10,000 soldiers and 4,600 police officers to the affected areas.

For the moment, the Argentine Ambassador in Ecuador, Luis Juez, has said that there are no Argentines on the list of fatalities however, speaking to Cadena 3, Juez confirmed that the embassy has “a list of 35 Argentines who we are currently trying to locate.” He explained that this “could be because the [communication] lines, which are erratic, have made contact impossible” and that “many people have fled the earthquake zone.”

Meanwhile, the Ecuadorian Embassy has said that it is trying to locate Lautaro as quickly as possible. Anyone with information should call: 0358-155049133.