Ecuador earthquake death toll still rising | News | DW | 18.04.2016
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Ecuador earthquake death toll still rising

Rescue workers and bereaved family members are continuing to search for survivors from Saturday's earthquake. While some are digging through rubble with their bare hands, professional rescuers are pouring in from abroad.

Stories of tragedy reverberated out of Ecuador Monday as the death toll from the weekend's earthquake broke 400, and with more than 200 people still missing officials warned that the number of casualties could continue to rise.

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Ecuador: Death toll rising after quake

President Rafael Correa cut short a state visit to the Vatican to return home to the disaster zones devastated by the 7.8 magnitude quake.

"There are still lots of bodies in the rubble," Correa warned. "These are extremely difficult times, the biggest tragedy in the last 67 years."

He was referring to an August 1949 earthquake near the Ecuadorian city of Ambato that left 5,000 people dead.

Rescue teams arrive

At the same time, experienced rescuers were pouring in from Switzerland and Spain, as well as Latin American countries such as Mexico and Peru. Cuba said it was sending a medical team to treat victims.

The Spanish Red Cross estimates that up to 100,000 people will need assistance.

Rescuers pulled three people out who had been trapped for more than 32 hours in the rubble of a shopping center in the port city Manta.

Televised images of the dramatic pre-dawn rescue on Monday offered hope that some of the dozens of people still unaccounted for might yet be found even as the death toll has been officially marked at 413.

To reach the survivors trapped between the floor and roof of the collapsed shopping center in Manta, firefighters cut a nearly 2½-foot (70-centimeter) hole through concrete then pulled a woman out head first.

At the same site about 50 rescuers working with sniffer dogs, hydraulic jacks and a drill managed to free another woman and a young man. All three were taken directly to a nearby hospital.

In total, eight people were rescued from the site in the past 24 hours, said Angel Moreiera, the firefighter coordinating the effort.

The United States and the European Union said they were ready to help in any way possible.

The Ring of Fire

Ecuador sits on the Pacific rim's "Ring of Fire," so having the earth shake is not unusual in the Andean country.

The oil-rich nation has been rocked by seven earthquakes of a 7.0 magnitude or higher since 1900, according to the US Geological Survey. The last devastating one, in March 1987, killed about 1,000 people.

Bereaved families

Portoviejo is a provincial capital of nearly 300,000 that was among the hardest hit. The town's mayor reports at least 100 deaths.

President Correa walks atop a corrugated aluminum sheet on a street in Portoviejo.

Correa walks amid the of debris in Portoviejo

Among them were 17-year-old Sayira Quinde, her mother, father and toddler brother, crushed when a building collapsed on their car.

A grief stricken aunt, Johana Estupinan, was heading to the town of Esmeraldas, where she will bury her loved ones and break the news to her sister's three now-orphaned children.

The Quinde family had driven to her house from their home hours north to drop off Sayira before she was to start classes at a public university on a scholarship to study medicine.

The aunt said, "I never thought my life would be destroyed in a minute."

bik, jar/se (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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