LESS than 24 hours after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake rocked the Kyushu area of Japan, causing widespread death and destruction, Ecuador has been devastated by a 7.8 quake which has left at least 235 people dead and hundreds more injured.
The earthquake hit the northern town of Muisne at around 7pm on Saturday (April 16), and was the largest earthquake to hit Ecuador in 27 years.
The damage was widespread and severe, with a bridge as far as 300 kilometres away being destroyed as a result of the disaster and the quake even being felt in Colombia. Gabriel Alcivar, mayor of Pedernales, a town near the epicentre, has reported that the whole town has been “flattened.”
There were also more than 130 aftershocks following the main earthquake, with the biggest of these registered at 5.6, and landslides have made the situation even worse. In some places people are reportedly trying to dig out survivors using only their bare hands.
President Rafael Correa was on his way back from Italy at the time that the quake struck, and declared a state of national emergency.
Thousands of troops and police officers have been mobilised in an attempt to bring order to the region, which has been plunged into chaos in the aftermath of the quake. Rescue efforts are also well underway.
Reports have indicated that numerous buildings were completely destroyed, and looting and theft quickly began to break out in many of the affected areas. Power is out and phone lines are down and many people have quickly packed their bags and headed for higher ground.
President Correa called the situation, “a very painful test” and pleaded with citizens to remain calm and united in the face of the tragedy.
“Let’s be strong,” Correa urged the people of Ecuador. “We will overcome this.”