Portoviejo (Ecuador): The biggest earthquake in Ecuador in decades has killed 350 people and overwhelmed rescuers struggle to pull survivors out of the destruction.
An elderly woman inside her partially destroyed home in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Pic/AFP
The 7.8-magnitude quake struck the small, oil-producing South American nation late Saturday. More than 2,000 people were injured as structures tumbled during the quake or its dozens of aftershocks.
In Portoviejo, a city 15 kilometers from the coast, the temblor knocked down walls in a prison, helping 100 inmates to escape. Some were recaptured or returned, but police were hunting the others, Justice Minister Ledy Zuniga tweeted. Elsewhere in hard-hit Portoviejo, the stench of decaying bodies began to fill the tropical air as rescuers raced to find survivors.
“We have already recovered three dead bodies and we believe there are up to 11 people still trapped,” said one worker digging through the debris of what used to be a six-story hotel called El Gato.
Officials have declared a state of emergency in the worst-hit provinces, and a national state of “exception” to suspend certain civil rights and liberties to allow security forces to react faster.
Japan yesterday enlisted US help to airlift supplies to some of the 100,000 people made homeless by earthquakes in the country’s south, as rescuers struggled to find those still missing in a massive landslide. Many of those evacuated after their homes were damaged have been forced to sleep in temporary accommodation or huddle in makeshift shelters.