Ecuador: Death toll rises to 246 in earthquake

18th Apr 2016
Ecuador: Death toll rises to 246 in earthquake

By Senabri Silvestre

 

SANTO DOMINGO. Dom. Rep. (AA): The death toll continues to rise following a powerful earthquake that struck Ecuador.

At least 246 victims were confirmed dead, authorities said late Sunday.

The number of wounded climbed to 2,500, the Risk Management Department reported as Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas, who called the quake a “catastrophe”, warned that “unfortunately this figure will increase with the passing of the hours”.

Glas is overseeing rescue efforts until President Rafael Correa returns to the country.

Correa, who cut short a trip to Rome to return to Ecuador to deal with the emergency situation, tweeted, “Tarqui neighborhood was severely affected and Pedernales is destroyed.”

A number of countries have pledged assistance including Spain that promised a shipment of 12.5 tons of aid. Venezuela said it will send humanitarian assistance and the government of Colombia said it would also help with recovery efforts.

Ecuador’s justice minister said 30 of 100 prisoners have been recaptured who escaped after the quake struck.

The vice president arrived Sunday morning in the coastal area of Manta along with dozens of rescue workers and will address the affected areas of Portoviejo and Pedernales.

“The priority is to save lives at this time, take care of our wounded, with a lot of unity and strength,” he said.

Correa said late Saturday that the earthquake was the strongest in decades to hit Ecuador and he declared a state of emergency in six provinces to ensure order and the mobilization of law enforcement for residents’ safety.

Approximately 10,000 members of the armed forces and 3,500 national police personnel have been mobilized to affected areas to help with rescue work.

Officials said shelters have been set up across the affected region and field hospitals are being deployed in Pedernales and Portoviejo with more than 3,000 packages of food and nearly 8,000 sleeping kits.

The magnitude-7.8 quake was recorded at 18.58 local time (2358GMT) Saturday, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

The tremor struck along Ecuador’s Pacific coast and flattened buildings and damaged roads near the epicenter, as well as in the country’s largest city of Guayaquil.

More than 135 aftershocks, some stronger than magnitude-6.0, have been recorded. Ecuador is prone to powerful earthquakes.

In 1906, a magnitude-8.3 quake triggered a tsunami that killed as many as 1,500 people. And a magnitude-7.2 tremor in 1987 resulted in 1,000 fatalities.

“The April 2016 earthquake is at the southern end of the approximate rupture area of the 1906 event,” the USGS said.
 

[Photo: A woman cries as the search and rescue workers on duty over the collapsed buildings in Pedernales, Manabi Province of Ecuador on April 17, 2016.  Photographer: Josep Vecino/AA]

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