Ecuador quake death toll reaches 413

At least 413 people are now known to have died in the earthquake that struck Ecuador,

The Government said the 7.8-magnitude quake struck Ecuador’s Pacific coast on Saturday, and the search for survivors had continued.

During a visit to the worst-affected region, President Rafael Correa said the cost of rebuilding is likely to be in the billions of dollars.

He said it was the biggest tragedy to hit Ecuador in the past seven decades. About 2,500 people were injured.

Late on Monday, six people, including two girls, one three years old and the other nine months old, were rescued from the ruins of a hotel near the coastal town of Manta.

Elsewhere, funerals for some of those killed were held in Portoviejo and Pedernales, two towns that were the worst hit.

“I fear that figure will go up because we keep on removing rubble. There are signs of life in the rubble, and that is being prioritised,”  Mr Correa said in a televised address.

The quake comes at a time when the oil-producing country is already reeling from the slump in global crude prices.

According to the neighbours, most had got out as soon as the earthquake struck. Joselo was trying to get his car out of the garage when the roof collapsed on top of him. A bloodied pillow and his T-shirt lie tossed in a corner of what now looks like a building site.

Dozens of former residents climb on to the rubble and sift through broken stones to recover whatever belongings remain intact.

Western Ecuador was hit by a number of strong aftershocks on Monday, the largest of which measured magnitude 5.1.

In Pedernales, close to the epicentre, as many as 400 people are feared dead. Mayor Gabriel Alcivar said the entire town had been flattened. The death toll is still expected to rise

In Portoviejo, a city of 300,000 people 15km (10 miles) from the coast, rescuers rushed to search the debris of flattened buildings for survivors as residents reported the stench of decaying bodies beneath the rubble.

Hundreds of people in Portoviejo and Pedernales slept outdoors on Monday night.

Report says in Portoviejo, four members of the same family were killed when a building collapsed on their car.

Elsewhere in Portoviejo, the vibrations reduced part of the city’s prison to rubble, allowing 100 inmates to escape. Some were recaptured but others remained on the run.

According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake struck at a fairly shallow depth of 19.2km (11.9 miles), about 27km from Muisne in a sparsely populated area.

The quake was also felt in neighbouring Colombia.

Scientists say there is no connection between the quake in Ecuador and a severe tremor in southern Japan, which also occurred on Saturday.

BBC/Sammie