Americas News

Ecuador death toll rises to nearly 650 as recovery efforts continue

A magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck near Ecuador's northwest coast on Saturday evening, killing 646 people and injuring another 12,492.

A magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck near Ecuador’s northwest coast on Saturday evening, killing 646 people and injuring another 12,492.

The quake, the largest in Ecuador since 1979, struck at 6:58 p.m. last Saturday and was centered near the northern coastal town of Muisne in Esmeraldas province at a depth of 20 km (12 miles). The area is relatively sparsely populated and is around 170 kilometers (105 miles) northwest of the capital Quito. It was felt across Ecuador, northern Peru and southern Colombia.

Global Affairs Canada confirmed on Sunday that two Canadians were among the dead, with the U.S. State Department confirming that an American was killed in the quake.

Strong aftershocks have rattled the country near the epicenter daily.

A state of emergency was declared in six provinces.

The day after the quake, Ecuadorian vice president Jorge Glas said that most of the deaths were reported in Manabí province, with some also in Guayas province.

Landslides and road closures

According to the Ministry of Transport and Public Works, landslides had closed 12 main roads, making it difficult for emergency workers to reach the hardest hit areas.

A tsunami alert had initially been issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center but was later canceled for all areas, with only some small waves being recorded by PTWC.

Recovery efforts

Three people were pulled out alive on Monday after being trapped for over 32 hours in the rubble of a flattened shopping center. Firefighters had to cut a nearly 2 ½-foot hole through concrete to reach the victims.

Over 3,000 packages of food and nearly 8,000 sleeping kits were delivered after the quake for survivors.

Roughly 450 rescue workers from Spain, Peru, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and elsewhere had been assisting in rescue efforts, offering food, water and medicine. However, Correa said that bad roads have made it difficult to receive aid.

Government response

President Rafael Correa, who was visiting the Vatican at the time of the quake, cut his trip short to return to Ecuador.

On Wednesday, Correa stated he is raising sales taxes and putting a one-time levy on millionaires to help pay for reconstruction.

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