The death toll from Ecuador’s biggest earthquake in decades soared to 272 on Sunday as survivors cobbled together makeshift coffins to bury loved ones, lined up for water and sought shelter beside the rubble of their shattered homes.
The 7.8 magnitude quake struck off the Pacific coast on Saturday and was felt around the Andean nation of 16 million people, causing panic as far away as the highland capital Quito and destroying buildings, bridges and roads.
“Ecuador has been hit tremendously hard… This is the greatest tragedy in the last 67 years,” said a shaken President Rafael Correa, who rushed back to Ecuador from a visit to Italy.
“There are signs of life in much of the rubble and that is the priority,” Correa said in a televised address to the nation.
He confirmed 272 deaths and 2,068 injured and said he feared those figures would increase.
A 7.8 magnitude earthquake has shaken Ecuador Saturday, killing at least 77 people and causing considerable damage near the epicenter, but also in more distant places like Guayaquil, authorities said.