A magnitude-7.9 quake hit Ecuador’s coastal region on Saturday night, killing at least 77 and injuring more than 588 people from five cities, according to the Geophysical Institute of Ecuador. Hours later, strong aftershocks of up to 6,1-magnitude continue striking the region.
The first temblor started at 6:58 pm on Saturday in the Esmeraldas coasts, nearby Muisne, a coastal town in northwest Ecuador. The U.S. Geological Service reported that the magnitude was of 7.4. On the other hand, Ecuador’s institutions reported a magnitude of 7.9 with a depth of 6.2 miles.
On Sunday morning, Ecuador’s Vice President Jorge Glas said that more than 14,000 officers from the Public Force have been mobilized to areas affected by the quake. The rescue operative is composed of 10,000 military officials from the army and 4,600 police officers, said El Universo from Ecuador.
Numbers of victims and wounded people would increase since rescue authorities have not been able to reach Pedernales and nearby areas where the epicenter was produced, said Glas. Last time a quake with the same magnitude occurred in Ecuador was in 1979.
“The situation is too complex, pathways to reach Pedernales are extremely affected, to bring assistance there. We know there are citizens among debris, who must be rescued. We have deployed all of our resources and we are going to receive international aid,” said Vice President Glas, according to El Pais.
Pedernales’ major Gabriel Alcivar has described the situation in the region as “catastrophic.” He said that there are villages that are totally devastated and dozens of people have died in the rustic zone, according to Reuters.
The Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was at the Vatican on Saturday. However, he immediately took a return flight, after the quake took place. He has described it as the “the strongest in decades.” The government also announced that it is going to release $300 million to face the emergency.
There is no tsunami alert by now in Ecuador, however, some regions near the coast have undergone to preventive evacuations, due to possible increased sea tides. According to the Army’s Oceanographic Institute, sea levels have not considerably varied by now, however, they have recommended people to be cautious.
“I’m in a state of panic. My building moved a lot and things fell to the floor. Lots of neighbors were screaming and kids crying.” said Zoila Villena from Quito, according to the Associated Press.
The Guayaquil Airport has been closed as a preventive measure. At the same time, people in social media report that some cities have been affected by power outages and landslides, said El Pais.
Google has activated the person finder in Ecuador for people who want to find someone or for people who has information about others. On the other hand, Facebook has activated the Safety Check, so users can turn on a green check on their profiles if they are safe.
According to Vice President Glas, mobile operators are offering free text messages for everyone in some regions. Pope Francis, who was in a meet with Ecuador’s president when the incident occurred, has invited people in the St. Peter’s Square to pray for the victims.
Source: The Associated Press