Traumatized residents of Ecuador slept amid rubble while rescuers dug for survivors on Monday after an earthquake destroyed the Andean nation’s coastal region, killing at least two hundred seventy two people.
On Saturday, a 7.8 magnitude quake had ripped apart buildings, roads, knocked out power, and injured at least two thousand sixty eight people in the Andean country.
In the beach town of Pedernales, survivors curled up for the night on mattresses or plastic chairs next to the rubble of their homes. Soldiers and police patrolled the streets while pockets of rescue workers.
Late on Sunday, fire fighters entered a partially destroyed house to search for three children and a man apparently trapped inside, as a crowd of forty people gathered in the darkness to watch.
“My little cousins are inside, before there were noises, screams. We must find them,” pleaded Isaac, 18 years old, as the firemen combed the debris.
Tents sprung up in the town’s still-intact stadium to store bodies, treat the injured, and distribute water, food, and blankets to survivors. People wandered around with bruised limbs and bandaged cuts, while patients with more serious injuries were evacuated to hospitals.
Leftist President Rafael Correa, who surveyed the damage in the coastal province of Manabi on Sunday night said “Ecuador has been hit tremendously hard.”
Correa noted in a televised address that feared the death toll would rise from what he called a tragedy.
Its crucial energy industry appears largely intact after the quake, though its main refinery of Esmeraldas was closed as a precaution. However, exports of bananas, flowers, cacao, and fish could be slowed by ruined roads and delays at ports.