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Ecuador's president to raise taxes to cover earthquake damages

President Rafael Correa has said he will step up measures to help finance the repairs following the disaster. Hundreds were killed and many are still missing after the earthquake.

In a televised address on Wednesday, Correa said he would raise taxes and impose a levy on the wealthy in order to cover the billions of dollars in damages caused by the earthquake in Ecuador late last week.

"I know we're at the most difficult stage right now, but it's just the beginning," Correa warned.

At least

570 people were killed and around 163 people were officially reported missing

following the 7.8-magnitude quake, which struck the country on Saturday and left much of its infrastructure in ruins. The number of people rendered homeless by the disaster has climbed to over 23,500.

Correa said he would use the authority granted him by the country's state of emergency to hike sales taxes from 12 percent to 14 percent, and would also raise taxes on companies.

Tax hikes and emergency loans

Ecuador Zerstörung nach Erbeben in Portoviejo

The president estimates the earthquake caused between $2 billion and $3 billion in damages

The government will also charge a one-time tax of 0.9 percent on the wealth of those who own more than $1 million (885,500 euros). Workers who make over $1,000 a month will be forced to contribute a day's wages to the reconstruction.

The president is also planning on taking out $600 million in emergency credits from the World Bank and other international lenders.

Even before his public address on Wednesday, Correa had taken to Twitter to call for strength and solidarity in the wake of the disaster. "These have been among the most difficult days of my life, but things like this give us the courage to move forward," he wrote.

An international crisis

Ecuador Erbeben Suche nach Verschütteten

The government says at least 163 people are still unaccounted for following the quake

The Spanish Red Cross estimated that as many as 100,000 will require assistance in the coming days. International rescue teams were at the scene as officials scrambled to find those still buried in the rubble. The government said 13 countries were providing aid for rescue efforts.

Overall, Correa said the quake caused between $2 billion and $3 billion of damage to the country, which was already suffering from a shrinking economy and heavy austerity measures.

"Let's not kid ourselves - it will be a long struggle ... reconstruction for years, billions (of dollars) in investment," Correa said. "In the short term, we're going to need tens of millions of dollars."

blc/jil (AP, dpa, AFP)

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