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  Ecuador quake kills at least 233

Ecuador quake kills at least 233

Published : Apr 18, 2016, 6:26 am IST
Updated : Apr 18, 2016, 6:26 am IST

600 injured, several trapped under rubble

Residents sit covered with blankets outside their houses in the Pacific coastal town of Pedernales, Ecuador, on Sunday.	 — AP
 Residents sit covered with blankets outside their houses in the Pacific coastal town of Pedernales, Ecuador, on Sunday. — AP

600 injured, several trapped under rubble

At least 233 people were killed when a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador, destroying buildings and a bridge and sending terrified residents scrambling from their homes, authorities said Sunday.

“The official figure of the number killed has risen to 233,” President Rafael Correa said on Sunday on his Twitter account. Officials had previously put the toll of Saturday’s quake at 77 dead and nearly 600 injured.

Vice-president Jorge Glas said it is the “worst seismic movement we have faced in decades”.

The quake, which struck at 2358 GMT Saturday about 170 km northwest of Quito, lasted about a minute and was felt across Ecuador, northern Peru and southern Colombia.

“Oh, my God, it was the biggest and strongest earthquake I have felt in my whole life. It lasted a long time, and I was feeling dizzy” said Maria Torres, 60, in the capital Quito, which was rocked by the late Saturday quake.

“I couldn’t walk... I wanted to run out into the street, but I couldn’t.”

“We know that there are citizens trapped under rubble that need to be rescued,” he said in a special TV and radio broadcast.

Officials declared a state of emergency in the six worst-hit provinces.

The police, the military and the emergency services “are in a state of maximum alert to protect the lives of citizens,” Mr Glas said.

President Correa, on a visit to the Vatican, wrote on Twitter that he was immediately returning to Ecuador.

He said vice-president Glas was on his way to Portoviejo, a city on the Pacific in an area heavily affected by the quake.

In the Pacific port city of Guayaquil, home to more than two million people, a bridge collapsed, crushing a car beneath it, and residents were picking through the wreckage of houses reduced to heaps of rubble and timber, an AFP photographer reported.

Ecuador's Geophysical Office reported "considerable" structural damage "in the area near the epicentre as well as points as far away as Guayaquil".

The US Geological Survey (said the 7.8-magnitude shallow quake struck off the northwest shore of Ecuador, just 27 kilometres from the town of Muisne. The vice-president gave a slightly lower measurement of magnitude 7.6.

Ecuador lies near a shifting boundary between tectonic plates and has suffered seven earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or higher in the region of Tuesday's quake since 1900, the USGS said. At least 55 smaller aftershocks rattled the country after the main quake, Mr Glas said.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre initially issued a warning for the nearby Pacific coastline but later said that the threat had largely passed.

Location: Ecuador, Pichincha, Quito