The Ecuador earthquake, at a magnitude of 7.8 and the strongest to hit the country since 1979, has so far killed at least 350 people and injured over 2,527. Ecuador’s sparsely populated fishing ports and tourist beaches, 170 kilometers northwest of capital city Quito, were at the center of the quake that struck shortly after nightfall on April 16. The deaths were reported in the surrounding cities of Manta, Portoviejo, and Guayaquil.
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has declared a state of emergency. Stressing that the priority is finding earthquake survivors, he said this.
“Everything can be rebuilt, but lives cannot be recovered, and that’s what hurts the most.”
Mayor Gabriel Alcivar of Pedernales, a town of 40,000 near the quake’s epicenter, begged authorities to send earth-moving machines and emergency rescue workers to save residents trapped among the rubble. Expressing his dismay over looting amid the chaos, he issued the following statement.
“We’re trying to do the most we can, but there’s almost nothing we can do. This wasn’t just a house that collapsed, it was an entire town.”
Ecuador’s Vice-President Jorge Glas said in a BBC report that food and other essentials were being parceled out and international aid was also coming, initially from Venezuela and Mexico. Meanwhile, President Rafael Correa, closely monitoring rescue efforts in the affected areas, admonished his countrymen to be “calm and united.”
Ecuador, being on the Pacific Ring of Fire, is often visited by tremors. The arc of earthquake activity that extends right around the Pacific basin passes through the country’s boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates.
As a result, Ecuador’s seven magnitude-7.0 or greater events have occurred since 1900, within 155 miles of this latest earthquake. Tsunami waves have also contributed to past damage and loss of life.
According to National Post, panicking people ran out into the streets as their buildings shook in Ecuador’s capital of Quito. The earthquake knocked out electricity in several neighborhoods, and six homes collapsed before power was restored a few hours later.
Ecuador experienced landslides that hampered emergency workers trying to reach hard-hit areas. Rescue workers had to dig out survivors from beneath collapsed structures of all kinds. The earthquake caused damage as far away as 300 miles south of the epicenter.
Among the casualties reported was the driver of a car crushed by an overpass that buckled in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s most populous city. Guayaquil’s international airport was shut down, and the roof of a shopping center fell. Hydroelectric dams and oil pipelines were put out of operation as a precautionary measure against earthquake damage.
More than 130 aftershocks have followed the Ecuador earthquake which, the United States Geological Survey determined, struck at a fairly shallow depth of 11.9 miles. BBC reported that David Rothery, a professor of geosciences at The Open University, rated Ecuador’s quake at six times as powerful as southern Japan’s earthquake on Saturday.
The Ecuador earthquake also shook Colombia, where patients of a clinic in the city of Cali were said to have been evacuated from the building they were in.
[Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images]