UPDATE – Death toll rises in Ecuador earthquake


President declares state of emergency following magnitude-7.8 tremor


By Senabri Silvestre

SANTO DOMINGO. Dom. Rep. – The death toll rose to 238 from a powerful earthquake that struck Ecuador, authorities said Sunday.

“Tarqui neighborhood was severely affected and Pedernales is destroyed”, President Rafael Correa tweeted while flying home to deal with the emergency situation, after cutting short a trip to Rome.

The number of wounded climbed to 1,557, the Risk Management Department reported as Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas, who called the quake a “catastrophe”, warned that “unfortunately this figure will increase with the passing of the hours”.

Glas is overseeing rescue efforts until Correa returns later Sunday.

The vice president arrived Sunday morning in the coastal area of Manta along with dozens of rescue workers and will address the affected areas of Portoviejo and Pedernales.

“The priority is to save lives at this time, take care of our wounded, with a lot of unity and strength,” he said.

Correa said late Saturday that the earthquake was the strongest in decades to hit Ecuador and he declared a state of emergency in six provinces to ensure order and the mobilization of law enforcement for residents’ safety.

Approximately 10,000 members of the armed forces and 3,500 national police personnel have been mobilized to affected areas to help with rescue work.

Officials said shelters have been set up across the affected region and field hospitals are being deployed in Pedernales and Portoviejo with more than 3,000 packages of food and nearly 8,000 sleeping kits.

The magnitude-7.8 quake was recorded at 18.58 local time (2358GMT) Saturday, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

The tremor struck along Ecuador’s Pacific coast and flattened buildings and damaged roads near the epicenter, as well as in the country’s largest city of Guayaquil.

More than 135 aftershocks, some stronger than magnitude-6.0, have been recorded.

A number of countries have expressed condolences, including Paraguay, Colombia, Russia, the U.S. and regional power Brazil.

Ecuador is prone to powerful earthquakes.

In 1906, a magnitude-8.3 quake quake triggered a tsunami that killed as many as 1,500 people.

And a magnitude-7.2 tremor in 1987 resulted in 1,000 fatalities.

“The April 2016 earthquake is at the southern end of the approximate rupture area of the 1906 event,” the USGS said.