- The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered 16 miles south-southeast of Muisne on the country’s coast
- Some 246 people have been killed and hundreds more injured in the worst earthquake to hit the country since 1979
- Distressing photos showed rescuers dragging the body of very young boy from the wreckage of collapsed building
- Quake sent residents fleeing for their lives and was felt as far away as Colombia – where it shook Cali and Popayan
Vice President Jorge Glas said the death toll will likely rise further in what he called the ‘worst seismic movement we have faced in decades’.
He added: ‘There are people trapped in various places, and we are starting rescue operations.’
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, rushing home from a trip to Italy, wrote on Twitter today: ‘The immediate priority is to rescue people in the rubble… Everything can be rebuilt, but lives cannot be recovered, and that’s what hurts the most.’
Coastal areas nearest the quake were worst affected, especially Pedernales, a rustic tourist spot with beaches and palm trees, where massive apartment blocks and buildings were completely flattened.
There were reports of at least 163 aftershocks, mainly in the badly affected Pedernales area, and a state of emergency was declared in six provinces.
Local TV station Televicentro broadcast footage of Pedernales locals using a small tractor to remove rubble to search – and attempt to rescue – those buried underneath.
One woman fell to her knees and wept when a corpse was pulled from underneath a pile of bricks and mortar and locals said children remained trapped.
Meanwhile in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, rubble covered the streets and a bridge fell on top of a car.
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A magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck Thursday near Kumamoto, followed by a magnitude-7.3 earthquake just 28 hours later.
The quakes have killed 41 people and injured about 1,500, flattened houses and triggered major landslides.
Ecuador lies near a shifting boundary between tectonic plates and has suffered seven earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or higher in the region of Tuesday’s quake since 1900, the USGS said. One in March 1987 killed about 1,000 people.
The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially issued a warning for the nearby Pacific coastline but later said that the threat had largely passed.
Cars travel on a darkened street using only their headlights to guide the way after the failure of electrical service in Guayaquil