The forces of nature have once again struck in one of the poorest areas of Latin America. An earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale ripped through a large part of Ecuador on Saturday night, causing a tragedy that is still hard to quantify. At least 413 have been killed and between 70,000 and 100,000 need some kind of assistance due to the tragedy, according to the latest figures.
On Sunday, rescue teams were yet to reach some of the worst-affected areas. “I fear that the death toll will rise considerably,” said the Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa at the weekend, adding that there are still many bodies to be pulled from the rubble.
The European Union has announced that it will be sending a million euros’ worth of urgent aide to help the victims.
It was 6.58pm when the ground began to shake in the northwest of the country, in the coastal province of Esmeraldas, on the border with the south of Colombia. The quake, the worst in the last three decades in Ecuador, was felt across the whole country. The epicentre was in the Pacific Ocean, at a depth of 20 kilometers – 28 kilometers from the Ecuadorian coast and 173 kilometers from the capital, Quito.
There have been nearly 230 aftershocks since, some as strong as 6.1 on the Richter scale. The tremors are likely to continue for the next three days. The earthquake is one of the worst that Latin America has seen in the last decade, after Peru in 2007 (nearly 600 dead) and in Chile in 2010 (more than 150 victims).
President Correa cut short an official visit to the Vatican when the earthquake struck, arriving back in his country on Sunday afternoon. “The tragedy is huge, the pain is huge,” the leader said, visibly moved.
Correa announced that 10,000 military personnel and 4,600 police officers had been mobilized. The state has allotted $300 million for the emergency, while Correa announced that the government has a credit line of $600 million from bodies such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.
The international community announced its solidarity and immediate support for Ecuador. Some neighboring countries, such as Venezuela and Colombia, were the first to send assistance. Correa thanked world leaders, including Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, for their phone calls of support.
English version by Simon Hunter.