The death toll from a powerful 7.8 earthquake that shook Ecuador’s northwestern coast rose to 238 on Sunday with around 1500 more wounded.
The quake was Ecuador’s largest since 1979 and was followed by 130 aftershocks.
The quake was felt across northern Peru and southern Colombia, struck at 6:58 local time Saturday evening (2358 GMT)
10,000 troops and 3,500 police are being deployed in the affected areas as rescue operations got under way.
The BBC reports:
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has cut short a visit to Italy to fly back and deal with the crisis.
He has declared a state of emergency and said the priority is finding survivors.
“Everything can be rebuilt, but lives cannot be recovered, and that’s what hurts the most,” he said.
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.
At least 500 people were injured in the quake, which was felt across the country.
Widespread severe damage is reported, with a bridge destroyed as far south as Guayaquil about 300km (190 miles) away.
Gabriel Alcivar, mayor of Pedernales, close to the epicentre, said the “entire town” had been flattened.
“We’re trying to do the most we can but there’s almost nothing we can do,” he added, warning that looting had broken out.
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