The death toll from Saturday’s magnitude-7.8 earthquake in Ecuador climbed to 272, President Rafael Correa said late Sunday, according to Agence France-Presse. More than 2,000 people were reportedly injured from the quake that struck off the Pacific coast.
Correa said Sunday that the number of deaths "will rise," adding that rescue operations were underway to find survivors. Some 10,000 troops and 3,500 police are being deployed in the affected areas, BBC reported.
"Ecuador has been hit tremendously hard. ... This is the greatest tragedy in the last 67 years," Correa, who rushed back to Ecuador from a visit to Italy to deal with the crisis, said in a televised interview, according to Reuters. "There are signs of life in much of the rubble and that is the priority."
A state of emergency has been declared in several parts of the country as dozens of aftershocks were felt following the quake, which destroyed buildings, bridges and roads. The cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Pedernales, a tourist destination, saw the most devastation from the quake. Saturday's tremor was centered 16.8 miles southeast of the coastal town of Muisne, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Gabriel Alcivar, mayor of Pedernales, a city close to the epicentre, said the "entire town" had been flattened. "We're trying to do the most we can but there's almost nothing we can do," he reportedly said.