Ecuador disaster

Another big quake hits coastal areas

People queueing at a food distribution point in Portoviejo, Ecuador, on Tuesday, three days after the first massive earthquake. Yesterday, another quake of magnitude 6.2 hit Ecuador's coast.
People queueing at a food distribution point in Portoviejo, Ecuador, on Tuesday, three days after the first massive earthquake. Yesterday, another quake of magnitude 6.2 hit Ecuador's coast.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Rescue operations suspended temporarily; no reports of major damage

PEDERNALES (Ecuador) • A magnitude 6.2 earthquake shook Ecuador's coast yesterday, terrifying locals and impeding rescuers after a bigger weekend quake battered the same area and killed more than 500 people.

The latest earthquake hit 25km off Muisne on the north-west Pacific coast at a depth of 15km at 0833 GMT (Singapore time 4.33pm) yesterday, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said.

That was near the epicentre of Saturday's 7.8 quake, which devastated a long swathe of the coast and dealt a major blow to the oil-producing nation's already fragile economy.

Witnesses said two strong tremors of about 30 seconds each woke people up and sent them running into the streets. No tsunami warning was issued, and there were no immediate reports of major damage.

Ecuador's Geophysical Institute said there were in fact two quakes of magnitude 6.2, followed by 17 aftershocks. The USGS, however, mentioned one quake of 6.1 size.

Local media reported that rescue operations were temporarily suspended because of the new earthquake, amid dwindling hopes of finding more survivors from Saturday's quake.

That earthquake killed at least 525 people, left more than 200 missing and injured more than 4,600. It also destroyed about 1,500 buildings, triggered mudslides and tore up roads.

Some 20,500 people were left sleeping in shelters.

Supervising work in the disaster zone, President Rafael Correa said the weekend quake had inflicted US$2 billion to US$3 billion (S$4 billion) in damage to the economy and could knock 2 to 3 percentage points off growth.

Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has written to his Ecuadorian counterpart, Mr Guillaume Long, to offer his condolences and a US$50,000 contribution from Singapore to assist in the immediate relief and recovery efforts, according to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs press statement yesterday.

"I was deeply saddened by the loss of life and widespread damage caused by the earthquake that struck Ecuador on April 16, 2016. I would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to the people of Ecuador," Dr Balakrishnan wrote to Mr Long.

"Our thoughts are with the victims, their families and everyone who has been affected during this difficult time," he wrote, adding that Singapore hoped the contribution would be of some assistance to those affected by the quake.

Lower crude revenue had already left the poor Andean nation of 16 million people facing near-zero growth, cutting investment and forcing it to seek financing.

In isolated villages and towns, survivors struggled without water, power or transport, although aid was trickling in.

Along Ecuador's Pacific coast, sports stadiums served as both morgues and aid distribution centers.

Scores of foreign aid workers and experts have arrived to help. About 14,000 security force members are keeping order, but sporadic looting has been reported.

Rescuers were losing hope of finding more people alive, although relatives of the missing begged them to keep looking.

The Singapore Red Cross (SRC) yesterday announced the launch of two separate fund-raising appeals to help survivors after earthquakes hit Japan and Ecuador.

The SRC will contribute US$30,000 each through the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Ecuadorian Red Cross for emergency relief. Donors who wish to contribute to the month-long fund-raising effort can visit or mail their contributions to Red Cross House at 15 Penang Lane.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2016, with the headline 'Another big quake hits coastal areas'. Print Edition | Subscribe