Earthquake kills 238 in Ecuador

epa05263881 A man walks among the debris of a collapsed building after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Ecuadoran northern coastal region, in the town of Pedernales, Ecuador, 17 April 2016. At least 77 people were killed and hundreds injured in an earthquake affecting the Ecuadoran northern coastal region.  EPA/JOSE JACOME

Rescuers have pulled survivors from the rubble after the strongest earthquake to hit Ecuador in decades flattened buildings and buckled highways along its Pacific coast.

Officials said the quake had killed at least 238 people and injured more than 1500.

The magnitude-7.8 quake, the strongest to hit Ecuador since 1979, was centred on Ecuador’s sparsely populated fishing ports and tourist beaches, 170km northwest of Quito, the capital.

Vice President Jorge Glas reported the death toll at a news conference as President Rafael Correa flew back from Rome to deal with the crisis. He said 1557 people were injured.

Glas said there were deaths in the cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Guayaquil – all several hundred kilometers from the centre of the quake, which struck shortly after nightfall on Saturday.

In Pedernales, a town of 40,000 near the quake’s epicentre, dozens of frightened residents slept in the streets while men equipped with little more than car headlights tried to rescue survivors who could be heard trapped under the rubble.

“We’re trying to do the most we can, but there’s almost nothing we can do,” said Pedernales Mayor Gabriel Alcivar.

Alcivar pleaded for authorities to send earth-moving machines and rescue workers to help find people in the rubble. He said looting had broken out amid the chaos but authorities were too busy trying to save lives to re-establish order.

“This wasn’t just a house that collapsed. It was an entire town,” he said.

Correa declared a national emergency and urged Ecuadoreans to stay strong.

“Everything can be rebuilt, but what can’t be rebuilt are human lives, and that’s the most painful,” he said in a telephone call to state TV before departing Rome for Manta.

Glas said the country had already deployed 10,000 armed forces. In addition, 4600 national police were sent to towns near the epicentre.

Would-be rescuers scrambled through the ruins in the provincial capital Portoviejo, digging with their hands to find survivors. As officials set up shelters and field hospitals, residents said they felt like their entire town had been flattened.

“Compatriots: Unity, strength and prayer,” Glas told a throng of residents gathered in the streets of Manta as he instructed them on how to look for survivors. “We need to be quiet so we can hear. We can’t use heavy machinery because it can be very tragic for those who are injured.”

On social media, Ecuadorians celebrated a video of a baby girl being pulled from beneath a collapsed home in Manta.

Shanty towns and cheaply-constructed brick and concrete homes were reduced to rubble along the quake’s path, while in Guayaquil a shopping centre’s roof fell down and a collapsed highway overpass crushed a car.

Luis Quito said he spent the entire night delivering water to guests trapped under the rubble of the four-story hotel owned by his father-in-law, the Hotel Chimborazo. He said his father-in-law was missing and feared dead.

“We hear screaming all through the night,” said Quito as he decried the slow response by emergency workers. “There are humans trapped below the terrace. Babies. We need rescuers. But nobody has arrived so far.”

Latest News

  • Aviation

Solomon Airlines fills Air Vanuatu gap with flights from Port Vila to Auckland

Solomon Islands’ national carrier will commence direct flights between Port Vila and Auckland from 27 May, using Solomon Airlines aircraft to continue air services linking Vanuatu and New Zealand. Solomon Islands officials together with the Vanuatu Government has worked closely with relevant New Zealand authorities to continue interim flights servicing Auckland from Port Vila. This included […]

  • Aviation

Board Air Canada in Sydney’s CBD via a sleek Light Rail

Visitors flocking to Vivid Sydney will glide through the CBD in the newest addition to the Air Canada fleet – a sleek Light Rail tram wrapped in the airline’s unique livery. The Air Canada-themed tram is part of a new marketing campaign designed to put Air Canada in lights during the Vivid Sydney festival (25 […]

  • Cruise
  • News

Carnival Splendor to the rescue of Aussies and Kiwis left stranded in Vanuatu

Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Splendor has come to the aid of a group left stranded in Vanuatu, following the collapse of Air Vanuatu. The group, eight Australians and one New Zealander, were visiting the island of Santo when Air Vanuatu cancelled all flights, leaving them without a way home. Carnival Cruise Line responded by offering […]

  • Hotels

QT Singapore set to open in heritage Eastern Extension Telegraph building

Bookings open today for QT Singapore, in the historic former Eastern Extension Telegraph building along Robinson Road, the first property from QT Hotels & Resorts to open outside Australian and New Zealand. Previously Accor’s So Singapore, then the Hotel Telegraph, QT Singapore will officially launch on September 16 and will feature 134 rooms, ranging in […]

  • Hotels
  • News

Minor Hotels’ Anantara group reimagines the brand as its portfolio surpasses 50 properties

Anantara Hotels & Resorts is marking a significant milestone with a reimagined brand identity as recent openings across Europe, Middle East and Asia have propelled the brand portfolio beyond 50 properties. Part of the Minor Hotels group, the Anantara visual refresh takes an elegant, pared-back approach that enables each hotel’s unique character to shine – […]