Ecuador earthquake leaves hundreds dead

Apr 17, 2016, 11:22 PM EDT
View of coastal town of Manta, Ecuador.
(Source: Johnny Chunga/flickr)

The death toll from Ecuador's biggest earthquake in decades soared to 262 on Sunday as survivors cobbled together makeshift coffins to bury loved ones, lined up for water and sought shelter beside the rubble of their shattered homes.

Reuters reports:

The 7.8 magnitude quake struck off the Pacific coast on Saturday and was felt around the Andean nation of 16 million people, causing panic as far away as the highland capital Quito and destroying buildings, bridges and roads. President Rafael Correa rushed home from a trip to Italy to supervise the emergency. "The immediate priority is to rescue people in the rubble," he said on Twitter. "Everything can be rebuilt but lives cannot be recovered and that's what hurts the most," Correa told state radio. The government said 262 people were killed and up to 2,500 injured, according to the latest tallies on Sunday evening. Coastal areas nearest the epicenter were hit hardest, especially Pedernales, a rustic tourist spot with beaches and palm trees now laden with debris from pastel-colored houses. Dazed residents recounted a violent shake, followed by a sudden collapse of buildings that trapped people in wreckage. "You could hear people screaming from the rubble," Agustin Robles said as he waited in a line of 40 people for water outside a stadium in Pedernales. "There was a pharmacy where people were stuck and we couldn't do anything."

The BBC writes:

The country's Ecuador's Vice-President Jorge Glas, visiting one of the worst hit cities, Manta, met a resident who pleaded for people trapped under rubble. "We have to be quiet so that rescuers can listen [for survivors]," Mr Glas told him. "We cannot go in with heavy machinery because it can be tragic for the wounded." Helicopters and buses are ferrying troops north but have been hampered by landslides. In some areas people are using their bare hands to try to dig out survivors. Food and other essentials has been handed out and international aid was also beginning, with the first coming from Venezuela and Mexico.

CNN reports:

A state of emergency is in effect for six provinces -- Guayas, Manabi, Santo Domingo, Los Rios, Esmeraldas and Galapagos. Authorities urged those who left their homes in coastal areas to return after a tsunami alert was lifted. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa arrived in Ecuador on Sunday night after attending a Vatican conference in Rome. During his Sunday prayer, Pope Francis asked for those present to pray for the people affected by the earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan. "Last night a violent earthquake hit Ecuador, causing numerous victims and great damages," Francis said. "Let's pray for those populations, and for those of Japan, where as well there has been some earthquakes in the last days."