Ecuador Quake Death Toll Rises as World Leaders Offer Support

  • Government raises number of dead to 246, more than 2,500 hurt
  • PetroEcuador says it will resume transporting fuel, crude oil

Rescue workers work to pull out survivors trapped in a collapsed building after a huge earthquake struck, in the city of Manta early on April 17, 2016. Photographer: Ariel Ochoa/AFP/Getty Images

World leaders from the Vatican to Washington offered support to Ecuador as casualties mounted following one of the strongest earthquakes to strike the South American country in decades.

By Sunday evening, the number of dead had climbed to at least 246, from 77 earlier in the day. At least 2,527 were injured, the government said. President Rafael Correa flew to the epicenter in hard-hit Manabi province after cutting short a trip to Rome, for a conference at the Vatican, in the aftermath of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake.

“Thanks to the whole world for solidarity,” the president tweeted earlier Sunday. “Our endless love to the families of the fallen,” he said on an earlier post.

The nation’s geophysical institute said on its web page that the quake was centered about 170 kilometers (106 miles) west-northwest of the capital, Quito. The institute reported “considerable damage” and said more than 36 aftershocks, one measuring 5 on the Richter scale, had followed.

As houses in Quito shook and power went off briefly, residents evacuated and stood outside while waiting for the temblor, which lasted about three minutes, to stop. Some coastal towns were devastated by the quake, the government said, with victims trapped in collapsed homes and buildings. Roads and bridges were also affected, complicating access to the hardest-hit areas.

Vice President Jorge Glas said on Twitter Sunday evening that he would spend the night in Pedernales, in the Manabi province, working with security, health and rescue teams. The government deployed 10,000 troops to the region and the nation’s risk management agency said that 10,000 bottles of water would be shipped to some of the affected areas in the Manabi province, along with 7,668 sleeping kits and food for 3,000.

“We stand by the people of Ecuador in this difficult time and are ready to assist in any way we can,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in an e-mail.

State oil company PetroEcuador said Sunday that it was slowly restarting operations after making initial safety inspections. The company said Sunday that while the La Libertad and Shushufindi refineries were working normally, installations in the Esmeraldas refinery were still being evaluated.

The oil ministry reported earlier that there was no damage to strategic infrastructure projects, although some operations were suspended for safety. Potentially complicating the nation’s economic recovery, crude prices tumbled by the most in two months after talks in Doha among major global producers to freeze output ended without an agreement.

Ecuador, an OPEC member, produced 547,000 barrels of crude per day in March, according to data from the Vienna-based organization. The International Monetary Fund, which earlier Sunday said it stands ready to help Ecuador as needed, expects the economy to contract 4.5 percent this year.

Ecuador’s Finance Ministry has $300 million in emergency funds and will also use contingent financing to help pay for reconstruction, the government said in a statement published in the president’s official gazette.

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