April 20, 2016

Death Toll Reaches 413 in Ecuador Earthquake

Residents look at a rift in the highway created by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, in Chacras, Ecuador 
Photo AP

[From article]
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.
Afraid of staying indoors, or with no home to go back to, families huddled in the streets, while police and soldiers patrolled in a bid to control looting.
Seeing the devastation first hand, 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 of 16 million people.
Relief workers were confronted with swathes of flattened homes, roads and bridges as they surveyed the destruction wrought by Saturday night's quake, and the death toll was expected to rise.
"Reconstruction will cost billions of dollars," said Correa in Portoviejo, where survivors swarmed him asking for aid. The economic impact "could be huge," he added later.
Plunging income from oil, Ecuador's biggest earner, had already consigned economic growth forecasts to near zero this year. and exports of bananas, flowers, cocoa beans and fish could be slowed by ruined roads and port delays.
The energy industry, fortunately, escaped any serious damage and the main refinery of Esmeraldas was due to start up again on Monday night and reach full capacity in a week.
[. . .]
Shaken Ecuadoreans lined up for food and blankets, slept in the rubble of their destroyed homes or congregated in the street after the most destructive quake since a 1979 magnitude 7.7 quake killed at least 600 people and injured 20,000, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Fears of looting spread as in Portoviejo people 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.
"I have to take some advantage from this horrible tragedy. I need money to buy food. There's no water, no light, and my house was destroyed," said Jorge Espinel, 40, who works in the recycling business.
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 streets while rescuers searched for any survivors.
Tents sprang up in the town's football stadium, where relief workers treated the injured, distribute water, food and blankets, and stacked coffins.
Numbed by their trauma, bruised and bandaged survivors wandered around, while the more seriously injured were evacuated to hospitals.
[. . .]
Nearly 400 rescue workers flew in from various Latin American neighbors, along with 83 specialists from Switzerland and Spain. The United States said it would dispatch a team of disaster experts while Cuba was sending a team of doctors.


Ecuador quake toll climbs over 400, damage put at billions of dollars
Daily Mail (UK)
PUBLISHED: 22:05 EST, 18 April 2016 | UPDATED: 22:05 EST, 18 April 2016

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