Emergency declared in Ecuador after strong quake kills 233

Buildings in Pedernales town, Ecuador, collapsed during the 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which hit the South American country late on Saturday. Vice-President Jorge Glas yesterday said the death toll would likely rise in the "worst seismic movement we h
Buildings in Pedernales town, Ecuador, collapsed during the 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which hit the South American country late on Saturday. Vice-President Jorge Glas yesterday said the death toll would likely rise in the "worst seismic movement we have faced in decades".PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

At least 233 people were killed when a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador, destroying buildings and a bridge and sending terrified residents scrambling from their homes.

President Rafael Correa declared a national emergency after the tremor struck last Saturday and urged the South American nation's 16 million people to stay calm.

Vice-President Jorge Glas said yesterday that more than 588 people were injured and that the death toll would likely rise in the "worst seismic movement we have faced in decades".

The quake, which struck at 2358 GMT on Saturday (7.58am yesterday, Singapore time), about 170km north-west of the capital Quito, lasted about a minute and was felt across Ecuador.

Northern Peru and southern Colombia were also rattled but the authorities there reported no casualties.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre initially issued a warning for the nearby Pacific coastline but later said the threat had largely passed.

"It was the biggest and strongest earthquake I have felt in my whole life. It lasted a long time and I was feeling dizzy," said Ms Maria Torres, 60, in Quito.

"I couldn't walk... I wanted to run out into the street but I couldn't," she added.

Meanwhile, in Japan, on the other side of the seismically active Ring of Fire, rescuers used shovels to dig through mountains of soil yesterday as they raced against the threat of more landslides to reach people still trapped by two big earthquakes in the Kumamoto area on the southern island of Kyushu.

A total of 41 people are known to have died in the double disaster, with 11 still missing.

Singapore expressed its condolences over the disasters, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2016, with the headline 'Emergency declared in Ecuador after strong quake kills 233'. Print Edition | Subscribe