The official death toll from Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Ecuador has now reached 413, with 2,500 confirmed injured.
The figure may yet rise further as the search for survivors continues amongst the rubble and collapsed buildings.
More than 15,000 emergency workers have been deployed in rescue efforts and to start the recovery from the disastrous situation. Another 400 have also been sent to help from neighbouring countries.
Portoviejo, a city of 300,000 people 15km (10 miles) from the coast and Perdernales a town of 47,000 people on the east coast are two of the worst affected areas. Both lie in the state of Manabí.
In Pedernales, which is located close to the epicentre, Mayor Gabriel Alcivar explained that the “entire town is devastated.”
“Buildings have fallen down, especially hotels where there are lots of tourists staying. There are lots of dead bodies. We’re trying to do the most we can but there’s almost nothing we can do,” said Alcivar.
Accounts of looting have also been reported in Portoviejo.
Nearly 100 lorries and two planes carrying donated goods such as tinned food, water, clothes, toilet paper and other cleaning utensils provided by the Centro de Convenciones del Bicentenario (Bicentennial Convention Centre) have been sent to Manabí to assist those most affected.
President Rafael Correa, who cut short a visit to Italy to return and visit the affected areas, described events as “the biggest tragedy in the last 67 years”, since the Ambato earthquake on 5th August 1949.
Speaking regarding the humanitarian disaster, Correa confirmed that the number of fatalities could climb further, but added that there was still hope of find survivors: “there are signs of life in the rubble and that is being prioritised.”
President Correa also stated that the rebuilding process will cost billions of dollars.
The World Bank President Jim Yong Kim stated it would provide US$150m in financial aid to restore basic services damaged by the quake, with power lines still out of operation in many affected areas. The European Union also promised aid.
Luis Almagro, the secretary general of the Organisation of American States(OAS), has likewise confirmed some of the groups finances will be used to assist in the rebuilding effort.
The earthquake struck at a depth of 19.2km (11.9 miles) from Muisne, on Ecuador’s northwest Pacific coastline, according to the US geological survey.
El Comercio confirmed that 405 aftershocks have been registered as far as 7:20am this morning. In the last 12 hours, 56 aftershocks were reported.