At Least 77 Killed in Powerful Earthquake in Ecuador
A huge 7.8 magnitude earthquake has killed at least 77 people in Ecuador and, injuring more than 570 more in its path of destruction.
The US Geological Survey said the shallow quake, the strongest since 1979 to hit Ecuador, hit 16 miles from Muisne, a fishing area popular with tourists.
Vice President Jorge Glas said that there were initial reports of 41 dead in the cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Guayaquil – all several hundred miles from where the quake struck shortly after nightfall.
The death toll rose as reports from the worst-hit areas came in, and could go still higher.
‘We’re trying to do the most we can but there’s almost nothing we can do,’ said Gabriel Alcivar, mayor of Pedernales, a town of 40,000 near the epicentre.
‘This wasn’t just a house that collapsed, it was an entire town.’
As dozens of buildings collapsed, he urged rescuers to help anyone who might be trapped, and stop anyone taking advantage of the chaos to loot shops and homes.
Among those killed was the driver of a car crushed by an overpass that buckled in Guayaquil, the country’s most populous city.
On social media, people shared pictures of their collapsed homes, the devastated roof of a shopping centre breaking apart and a video of supermarket shelves shaking, above.
In Manta, the airport was closed after the control tower collapsed. Hydroelectric dams and oil pipelines were shut down as a precautionary measure.
President Rafael Correa, who is in Rome after attending a Vatican conference on Friday, called on Ecuadoreans to stay strong.
He said on Twitter he had signed a decree declaring a national emergency but that he couldn’t get back to Ecuador before Sunday afternoon.
Residents were urged to evacuate and get to higher ground in case of a tsunami.
Six of the country’s 25 provinces have declared a state of emergency.
In the capital Quito hundreds of miles away from the epicentre, the quake was felt for about 40 seconds and people fled to the streets in fear.
The quake knocked out electricity in several neighbourhoods and six homes collapsed but the situation was under control and power was being restored, Quito’s mayor Mauricio Rodas said.
‘I’m in a state of panic,’ said Zoila Villena, one of many Quito residents who congregated in the streets. “My building moved a lot and things fell to the floor. Lots of neighbours were screaming and kids crying.’
The quake had a depth of 12 miles. It was followed by at least 36 aftershocks followed, one as strong as 6 on the Richter scale.
Even stronger could be coming in the next hours and days.
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