Ecuador Earthquake: Death Toll Over 400, Damage in Billions
Touring a city ravaged by the earthquake that killed at least 413 people, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa on Monday said rebuilding would cost billions of dollars and may inflict a “huge” toll on the fragile OPEC nation’s economy.
Two days after the magnitude 7.8 quake, traumatized survivors begged Correa for water in the city of Portoviejo, while a soccer stadium in the beach town of Pedernales served as a makeshift relief centre and morgue.
With the death toll likely to rise further and swaths of flattened homes, roads and bridges coming to light, a visibly moved and grim-faced Correa warned that Ecuador’s biggest disaster in decades would put a big toll on the poor Andean country.
Correa, in the hard-hit city of Portoviejo, where survivors swarmed him asking for aid, he said:
Pleas for Aid, Sporadic Looting
The earthquake struck Saturday night along the northwest coast while Correa was in Italy. Vice President Jorge Glas – a potential candidate to succeed Correa in elections next February – flew into the disaster zone within hours to oversee rescue and relief efforts.
Some survivors complained about the lack of electricity and supplies and said that aid had still not reached some areas. The number of injured rose to over 2,600.
Shaken Ecuadoreans lined up for food and blankets, slept in the rubble of their destroyed homes or congregated on the street after the most destructive earthquake since a 1979 magnitude 7.7 quake killed at least 600 people and injured 20,000, according to the US Geological Survey.
Fears of looting spread as people in Portoviejo stole clothes and shoes from wrecked buildings and police tried to control crowds. A former social security building was ransacked for aluminum window frames and cables by people hoping to sell the materials.
Over 300 Aftershocks Felt
Elsewhere, armed men robbed two trucks carrying water, clothes and other basics to quake-hit beach locality Pedernales.
There, survivors curled up on mattresses or plastic chairs next to flattened homes. Soldiers and police patrolled the hot streets while rescuers searched for survivors.
Earlier, firefighters entered a partially destroyed house in Pedernales to look for three children and a man, apparently trapped inside, as a crowd gathered to watch.
Over 300 aftershocks rattled survivors huddling in the streets, worried their already cracked homes could topple.
Some 130 inmates climbed over the collapsed walls of the town’s low-security El Rodeo prison, although more than 35 were recaptured.
The government has mobilized about 13,500 security personnel to the affected areas.