The death toll from the earthquake that struck Ecuador on Saturday rose to 413, officials said, according to reports Tuesday. The magnitude-7.8 quake had struck the country’s Pacific Coast, injuring 2,500 others.
Rescue efforts were ongoing in the region, as three people were pulled from the rubble Monday of a shopping center that had crumbled to the ground, the Associated Press (AP) reported. These people were rescued after being trapped for over 32 hours, and a total of eight people were rescued from the site. Pre-dawn rescue efforts were being continued in the port city of Manta in hopes that some of those dozens of people unaccounted for could be found.
During his visit to the highly affected region, President Rafael Correa reportedly said that this was the biggest tragedy to hit the nation in the past seven decades and that the cost of rebuilding is expected to be in billions. The announcement of the expenditure comes at a time when the oil-producing country has already been struggling to deal with the slump in global crude prices.
Correa added that the death toll could rise further. “I fear that figure will go up because we keep on removing rubble,” Correa said in a televised address, according to BBC. “There are signs of life in the rubble, and that is being prioritized.”
BBC reported that late Monday, six people, including two children, were rescued from the ruins of a hotel near the coastal town of Manta.
The western part of the country was also hit by strong aftershocks on Monday, the largest of which was measured at magnitude 5.1.
As many as 400 people died in the beach locality of Pedernales, which was close to the epicenter of the quake, BBC reported. “Pedernales is devastated,” Mayor Gabriel Alcivar reportedly said. “Buildings have fallen down, especially hotels where there are lots of tourists staying. There are lots of dead bodies.” He also warned that looting had started in the region.
In the city of Portoviejo, which lies 10 miles from the coast, hundreds of people were due to spend Monday night outside their homes. Rescuers rushed to the region to search the debris as local people reported the stench from decaying dead bodies.
The country has begun receiving humanitarian aid and a report by the AP said that over 3,000 packages of food and nearly 8,000 sleeping kits were delivered Sunday in the affected regions. Spain's Red Cross said, according to the AP, that nearly 5,000 people may need temporary housing while 100,000 may need some sort of aid. Over 13,500 emergency workers are currently deployed while about 400 were reportedly coming in from nearby South American countries.
However, the situation aggravated after reports said that about 180 prisoners escaped from a facility near Manta as reports of looting continued. Authorities said, according to the AP, that while 20 inmates were recaptured, several others returned voluntarily. However, a BBC report said, citing Justice Minister Ledy Zuniga, that several more were still on the run.
Among those declared dead were a nun from Northern Ireland working in Ecuador, two Canadians and a U.S. citizen.