Hopes dwindle for Ecuador survivors
Published 20/04/2016 | 02:30
Rescuers in Ecuador were losing hope of finding more survivors from an earthquake which killed more than 400 people and dealt a shattering blow to the South American nation.
Praying for miracles, distraught family members beseeched rescue teams to find missing loved ones as they used dogs, bare hands and excavators to hunt through debris of flattened homes, hotels and stores in the hardest-hit Pacific coastal region.
The death toll stood at 443 but was expected to rise. The 7.8 magnitude quake, which struck late on Saturday, also left 231 people missing and injured more than 4,000.
Supervising rescue work in the disaster zone, Ecuador's President Rafael Correa said the quake inflicted up to €2.5bn of damage to the oil-dependent economy and could knock two to three percentage points off growth.
"Let's not kid ourselves, it will be a long struggle ... Reconstruction for years, billions in investment," said an emotional Correa.
The quake destroyed or damaged about 1,500 buildings, triggered mudslides and left 20,500 people sleeping in shelters, according to the government.
In Pedernales, a devastated rustic beach town, crowds gathered behind yellow tape to watch firemen and police sift through rubble overnight. The town's soccer stadium serves as a makeshift relief centre and morgue.
"Find my brother! Please!" shouted Manuel (17), throwing his arms to the sky by a corner store where his younger brother was working when the quake struck.
When an onlooker said recovering a body would at least give him the comfort of burying his sibling, he yelled: "Don't say that!"
Rescue efforts were becoming more of a search for corpses, Interior Minister Jose Serrano has warned.
In isolated villages and towns, survivors struggle without water, power or transport. Rescuers continue searching but the sickly stench of death tells them what they are likely to find.
"There are bodies crushed in the wreckage and from the smell it's obvious they are dead," said army captain Marco Borja in the tourist village of Canoa.
"Today we brought out between seven and eight bodies."