The death toll from a powerful earthquake that shook Ecuador’s northwestern coast soared to 246 Sunday and hundreds more were wounded, the nation’s president said.
Ecuador was in a state of emergency Sunday after the magnitude-7.8 earthquake flattened buildings and ravaged towns Saturday just before 7 p.m. local time (8 p.m. ET).
“Thank you to the whole world for solidarity,” President Rafael Correa said on Twitter.
“Our infinite love to the families of the dead,” Correa said on Twitter, while cutting short a trip to Italy to return home.
“The immediate priority is to rescue people in the rubble,” he later said. “Everything can be rebuilt, but lives cannot be recovered, and that’s what hurts the most.”
More than 2,500 people were injured in the quake, according to a statement from the government. At least 370 buildings were destroyed and another 151 buildings and 26 schools were affected by the quake, the statement said.
“We have buildings at three to four stories high just you know pancake effect and they are all in the basement now,” said resident Juan Fernando Rojas.
Correa declared a national emergency, and said the tremblor was the strongest quake to hit Ecuador since 1979. He warned people to be careful to avoid fallen debris and poles and said some areas had lost power.
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