'She was a superstar - everyone loved her' - young Irish nun among hundreds killed in Ecuador earthquake
A young Irish nun described as a superstar by her family has been killed in the earthquake in Ecuador.
Sister Clare Theresa Crockett, 33, died when a stairwell collapsed in the school she was working at in Playa Prieta.
More than 200 people were killed in the powerful earthquake which hit the south American country on Saturday.
Sister Clare, from Derry city, was a nun in the Home of the Mother order and had been teaching children in a rural part of the country, including how to play the guitar.
Her family paid a glowing tribute to her.
"She was a superstar. Everybody loved her," her cousin Emmet Doyle said.
More than 260 people died and 2,500 others were injured in the powerful quake, which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale - the strongest to hit the country since 1979.
The US Geological Survey said the shallow quake that hit on Saturday evening was centred 16 miles (26km) from Muisne in a sparsely populated area of fishing ports popular with tourists.
A state of emergency has since been declared in six of Ecuador's 24 provinces - with 10,000 armed forces deployed and 4,600 national police sent to the towns near the epicentre.
Homes, buildings and roads have been reduced to rubble - with more than 70% of the town of Pedernales, a town of 40,000, destroyed.
Sister Clare died along with a number of local girls in the school.
Her family said: "On Sunday 17th April, we lost our daughter, sister and aunt Sister Clare Theresa Crockett as a result of the earthquake in Ecuador.
"She was situated in a school in Playa Prieta with the Home of the Mother order. At this difficult time we would ask for privacy."
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has offered his condolences to Sister Clare's family.
“I want to offer my deepest sympathies and condolences to the family of Sister Clare Crockett who was killed in Ecuador on Saturday. The tributes paid to Sister Crockett since the weekend are a testament to the difference she made to the lives of the community she served. My Department is providing consular assistance to her family.”
“On behalf of the Government and people of Ireland, I also want to extend our sincere condolences to the people of Ecuador on the tragic and heavy loss of life from Saturday’s devastating earthquake. Our thoughts are with the families of all those who were killed as they mourn their loss.”
“Officials from my Department continue to liaise closely with the authorities in Ecuador in the aftermath of the earthquake” he said in a statement.
This morning traumatized Ecuadoreans slept amid rubble while rescuers dug for survivors after an earthquake smashed the Andean nation's coastal region, killing at least 272 people and flattening resort towns.
Saturday's 7.8 magnitude quake ripped apart buildings and roads, knocked out power, and injured at least 2,068 people in the largely poor Andean country.
In the devastated beach town of Pedernales, shaken survivors curled up for the night on mattresses or plastic chairs next to the rubble of their homes. Soldiers and police patrolled the hot, dark streets while pockets of rescue workers plowed on.
Late on Sunday, firefighters entered a partially destroyed house to search for three children and a man apparently trapped inside, as a crowd of 40 gathered in the darkness to watch.
"My little cousins are inside, before there were noises, screams. We must find them," pleaded Isaac, 18, 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.
The Servants of the Home of the Mother said six of their members died in the tragedy.
The five others were postulants, one of the early stages in formation before becoming a nun.
No children were in the school at the time of the collapse as the nuns and colleagues had been working to clean the building following bad floods in recent weeks.