Ecuador quake toll rises to 246, heighten relief efforts

Quito, April 18 (IANS) The toll in the deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Ecuador on Saturday evening, rose to 246 on Monday, with authorities heightening relief efforts and activating all resources to cope with the disaster.

According to Vice President Jorge Glas, 2,527 people were injured and an unknown number of others missing in the quake that has generated at least 189 aftershocks of various strength.

The government declared a state of emergency in the provinces of Manabi, Esmeraldas, Guayas, Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, Los Rios and Santa Elena, EFE news reported.

The whole country has begun to take stock and collect medicines, water, blankets, tents and food in order to send them to the hardest-hit places like the coastal Manabi province, where about 200 people died, said Ricardo Penaherrera of Ecuador’s national emergency management office.

The cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Pedernales, a tourist destination, saw the most devastation but damage was widespread throughout the country.

The Ecuador government has deployed 10,000 soldiers and 4,600 police officers to the affected areas.

The armed forces built mobile hospitals in Pedernales and Portoviejo and set up temporary shelters.

The military also brought in more K9 units to aid the search for survivors — and bodies.

“The lack of water and communication remains a big problem,” Penaherrera told CNN en Espanol.

“Many highways are in bad shape, especially in the mountainous area because it has been raining recently due to (the) El Nino weather phenomenon.”

The governments of Colombia, Chile, Spain and Mexico are sending help for rescue efforts.

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) also announced its readiness to provide their assistance and the UN Programme for Development (UNDP) has opened an account for international donations for those affected.

Television footage showed completely collapsed houses, damaged roads, collapsed hotels, and people on the streets crying and wandering on dusty roads.

The tremor was centred 27 km southeast of the coastal town of Muisne, according to the US Geological Survey.

It is the deadliest earthquake to hit the nation since March 1987 when a 7.2-magnitude temblor killed 1,000 people.

A tsunami threat following the earthquake has “mostly passed,” according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre.

An earlier warning for other nations with coastlines on the Pacific was cancelled.

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