The strongest earthquake to hit Ecuador since 1979 flattened buildings and destroyed highways killing 272 people and injuring 2527 others. The quake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale and the strongest to hit Ecuador since 1979, was centered on its fishing ports and tourist beaches, 170 km northwest of Quito, the capital of Ecuador.
Towns near the epicentre were evacuated in case of tsunami waves, but some hours later the authorities said that it was safe for the coastal residents to return to their homes.
In Quito, the capital, people fled into the streets as the quake shook buildings. Though the quake had knocked out power in many areas, but after a few hours power was restored. Electricity in Manabi province, where around 200 people had died, remained mostly down as the authorities focussed on finding survivors.
In Pedernales, near the quake’s epicentre, around 40,000 residents slept in the streets, while men with car headlights tried to rescue trapped survivors. “We’re trying to do the most we can,” said town’s Mayor Gabriel Alcivar.
He asked the authorities for heavy machines to rescue survivors, but they were busy in restoring law and order in the town.
President Rafael Correa flew back from Rome to deal with the crisis. Vice President Jorge Glas said there were deaths in Manta, Portoviejo and Guayaquil cities all several 100 km from the quake’s epicentre , which struck 16 April night.
Quito’s airport was closed briefly. Hydroelectric dams and oil pipelines in the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, a member nation, were shut down as a precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, the President had declared a national emergency and urged Ecuadoreans to stay strong. Around 10,000 armed forces and 4,600 national police personnel were deployed to various towns near the epicentre to help in relief work.
Correa said that Ecuador’s ally, Venezuela, Colombia, European Union, Spain, Chile, Peru and Mexico are sending aid for rescue efforts. To rebuild the country, the government is getting $600 million in emergency funds from various banks, said Correa.