Ecuadorian quake casualties rise to 233, hundreds injured
A 7.8 MAGNITUDE earthquake has struck northwestern Ecuador, powerful enough to destroy buildings and a bridge, this Sunday. Ecuadorian officials have elevated a state of emergency in 6 provinces hardest hit by the quake.
'Worst seismic movement we faced in decades'
The earth shattering quake struck at around 11:58 PM GMT on Saturday, northwest 170 km of the province of Quito. It lasted for about a minute. It was felt not just all across Ecuador, but also northern Peru and southern Colombia.
Ecuadorian vice president Jorge Glas is expecting the death toll to rise from initial estimates. He described the quake as the 'worst seismic movement we faced in decades'.
One resident narrated her experience with the quake in the capital Quito: "Oh, my God, it was the biggest and strongest earthquake I have felt in my whole life. It lasted a long time, and I was feeling dizzy... I couldn't walk... I wanted to run out into the street but I couldn't," said the 60-year old.
Glas said that as of now, the confirmed death toll has already reached a staggering 233 people. An estimated 588 are injured. He said that there may still be some citizens left under the rubble and is hurrying rescue operations.
"We know that there are citizens trapped under rubble that need to be rescued," said Glas. Police, military, and emergency services are currently in the state of maximum alert.
President of Ecuador Rafael Correa, who was visiting the Vatican, will head home immediately after hearing the news of the quake.
In another city, Guayaquil, a Pacific port city, a bridge collapsed. It crushed a car beneath it. Residents are now scrounging through the remains and the rubble to find supplies. The wreckage of houses, all reduced to timber and concrete, can be seen all around. Widespread damage is everywhere.
Ecuador's Geophysical office has rated that the quake has done "considerable structural damage" near the epicenter as well as in hard hit towns of Guayaquil.
President Correa said: "Roads and hospitals can be rebuilt; you cannot recover lost lives. That's what hurts the most."
Meanwhile, in the city of Portoviejo, widespread lack of public order has been reported. 10,000 troops and 3,500 police have been mobilized to neutralize the situation.
In Pedernales, meanwhile, mayor Gabriel Alcivar says that they are trying to cope with the situation, but laments that there is almost nothing they can do about it. He described the houses in the area as 'flattened' and looting has become rampant. The entire town of Pedernales has collapsed from the power of the quake.
55 smaller aftershocks rocked the country after the main quake.
The quake is reported to be six times stronger, in terms of shaking, than the recently occurred Japanese earthquake. In comparison, the Japanese quake killed 41 people. This was according to David Rothery, professor of geosciences at The Open University. He pointed out that the difference in the quake's damage to Japan's could also factor poorer adherence to seismic building codes in building construction.
Dozens of people are still trapped under the rubble, the actual number unknown. Even the airport has been closed, suffering considerable damage to the control tower.
Ecuador lies in the boundary of the earthquake zone, 27 kilometers from the town of Muisne. It is in between the tectonic plates shifting boundary. So far, the country has experienced seven earthquakes since 1900. The earthquake in March 1987 was one of the most deadly, killing more or less 1,000 people.