Quito: Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa declared a state of emergency after a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the coast of northwest Ecuador on Saturday, following which a tsunami alert was issued for Ecuador and Columbia.
The number of lost lives has almost tripled since the last official figure, with more than 230 people feared dead and about 500 injured. The number of injured is expected to increase, with many still feared trapped in debris. The earthquake that struck at 18:58 Ecuador Time (ET) had a depth of 19.2 kilometres.
President Rafael Correa, returning from a summit in Italy, said the death toll from Saturday night’s quake more than tripled since the last official announcement. Correa reported the death toll on his official Twitter account while flying back from Rome to deal with the crisis.
Around 13,500 military personnel and police officers have been dispatched for search and rescue operations. Shelters have been set up across the affected region and field hospitals are being deployed in the worst hit areas. Food packages and sleeping kits were also delivered to the victims.
Rescue efforts were hampered in remote regions due to landslides, with dozens of roads closed.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center for Columbia issued a tsunami alert for Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica, Fiji, Panama and Peru warning of waves that could reach one meter above tide level.
According to reports, power outages were being reported across the region, with a total blackout in Santo Domingo and power outages in parts of the capital city of Quito. Tremors were felt in neighboring Colombia and Peru too.
This is the largest earthquake to strike Ecuador since the 1979 Tumaco earthquake that had caused widespread damage and destruction.
Venezuela and Mexico have both pledged humanitarian aid to earthquake-hit Ecuador.