.41 in Japan
THE death toll from Ecuador’s biggest earthquake in decades soared to at least 238 yersterday as rescuers using tractors and bare hands hunted desperately for survivors in shattered coastal towns.
And at least 11 people were still missing following the quakes which killed 41 people and wounded hundreds in Japan. In Ecuador, the 7.8 magnitude quake struck off the Pacific coast at the weekend and was felt around the Andean nation of 16 million people, causing panic as far away as the highland capital Quito and collapsing buildings and roads in a swath of western towns, Reuters reported.
President Rafael Correa, rushing home from a trip to Italy, said the number of fatalities jumped yesterday to 235. “The immediate priority is to rescue people in the rubble,” he said via Twitter. “Everything can be rebuilt, but lives cannot be recovered, and that’s what hurts the most.”
The government called it the worst quake in the country since 1979. In that disaster, 600 people were killed and 20,000 injured, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. More than 1,500 people were injured, authorities said. Coastal areas nearest the quake were worst affected, especially Pedernales, a rustic tourist spot with beaches and palm trees, which appeared largely flattened.
“There are people trapped in various places, and we are starting rescue operations,” Vice President Jorge Glas said yesterday morning before boarding a plane to the area. A state of emergency was declared in six provinces. Authorities said there had been 163 aftershocks, mainly in the Pedernales area.
Many people spent the night on the streets. In Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, rubble lay in the streets and a bridge fell on top of a car. About 13,500 security force personnel were mobilized to keep order around Ecuador, and $600 million in credit from multilateral lenders was immediately activated for the emergency, the government said.
Meanwhile, at press time, Japan was struggling to restore services in the south-western island of Kyushu after it was hit by two powerful earthquakes.
Some 180,000 people spent a third night in temporary shelters, including cars and tents. More than 62,000 homes remain without electricity and 300,000 homes have no water, Japanese media report. Saturday’s magnitude-7.3 quake struck at 01:25 (15:25 GMT on Friday) close to the city of Kumamoto, which had been hit by a magnitude-6.4 quake on Thursday night. Both quakes were shallow, causing huge damage to roads, bridges and tunnels. Big landslides cut off remote mountain villages.