Ecuador: 1,700 Missing after Devastating Earthquake
Ecuador earthquake: Authorities warn of sharp rise in toll as 1,700 declared missing and hopes dwindle
19 April 2016
Image: Survivors are rescued from a collapsed building in Manta after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake. (AFP: Ariel Ochoa/API)
VIDEO: Death toll in Ecuador earthquake rises above 400(CBS News)
The death toll from Ecuador’s earthquake is feared to rise sharply as authorities warn 1,700 people are still missing and anger grips families of victims trapped in the rubble.
Three days after the powerful magnitude-7.8 quake struck Ecuador’s Pacific coast in a zone popular with tourists, 480 people are known to have died, the government said.
Sniffer dogs and mechanical diggers were busy at work in the wreckage of coastal towns such as Pedernales and Manta as the stench of rotting bodies grew stronger under the baking sun.
Praying for miracles, desperate family members beseeched rescue teams to find their missing loved ones as they dug through the debris of flattened homes, hotels, and stores in the hardest-hit region.
Tearful relatives grabbed chunks of debris with their bare hands while searching for loved ones along with stretched firefighting teams and mechanical diggers.
Among the stories of survival, authorities reported one person was found alive Monday afternoon under the rubble of the El Gato hotel in Portoviejo.
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Local media reported a girl was rescued from the ruins of a building after being trapped for 20 hours in the hard-hit town of Pedernales, at the centre of the quake.
Firefighters said on Twitter they pulled out three other survivors from rubble in the town of Manta.
“We have 2,000 people listed that are being looked for, but we have so far found 300,” Deputy Interior Minister Diego Fuentes told reporters in the capital Quito.
But as of Tuesday, rescue efforts would become more of a search for corpses, Interior Minister Jose Serrano said, with the death toll expected to rise.
The quake has injured at least 2,560 people, damaged more than 1,500 buildings, and left 18,000 people spending the night in shelters, according to the Government.
‘We are desperate, but hopes are not lost’
Foreign countries and organisations dispatched rescue teams to help search and medical units treat the injured, saying tens of thousands would need aid.
Rebuilding the destroyed areas will probably cost billions of dollars, President Rafael Correa said during a visit to Pedernales.
Although Ecuador frequently suffers seismic shudders because of its position on the Pacific Rim’s “Ring of Fire,” the weekend’s quake — which lasted a full minute — was the worst in nearly 40 years.
PHOTO: Veronica Paladines removes rubble while searching for her husband. (AFP: Luis Acosta)
Since 1900 Ecuador has been rocked by seven earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or higher in the region of Saturday’s quake, the US Geological Survey said.
Along the Pacific coast, in the towns of Pedernales, Manta and Portoviejo, the stench of rotting bodies filled the tropical air among heaps of rubble and twisted metal. Rescuers with sniffer dogs roamed the wreckage.
“My husband is under there,” said Veronica Paladines, 24, tearing at a mound of debris that used to be a hotel in Manta, with tears flooding down her cheeks.
Her 25-year-old spouse, Javier Sangucho, the father of their two young children, worked at the property as a painter.
“He had just gone down to rest a bit when it happened,” his wife said.
A similar scene unfolded in Pedernales, where Laura Taco stood in front of the Royal Hotel, where her sister-in-law and niece were buried by the earthquake.
“We are desperate, but hopes are not lost, there are signs that beneath the rubble that people are alive,” she said.
PHOTO: Police officers pile empty coffins in Pedernales two days after the earthquake. (AFP: Rodrigo Buendia)
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