Saturday 3 December 2016

New quake hampers rescue efforts in Ecuador

Isabel Martinez

Published 21/04/2016 | 02:30

Edith Mero nurses her broken arm in front of her collapsed house in Estancia Las Palmas Photo: AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd
Edith Mero nurses her broken arm in front of her collapsed house in Estancia Las Palmas Photo: AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

A magnitude 6.2 earthquake shook Ecuador's coast early yesterday, terrifying locals and impeding rescuers after a bigger weekend quake battered the same area and killed nearly 500 people.

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The latest earthquake hit 25km off Muisne on the northwest Pacific coast at a depth of 15km, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

That was near the epicentre of Saturday's 7.8 quake, which devastated a long swath of the coast and dealt a major blow to the oil-producing nation's already fragile economy.

Witnesses said two strong tremors of about 30 seconds each woke people up and sent them running into the street.

No tsunami warning was issued, and there were no immediate reports of major damage.

Ecuador's Geophysical Institute said there were in fact two quakes of magnitude 6.2, followed by 17 aftershocks. The USGS, however, mentioned one quake of 6.1 size.

Local media reported that rescue operations were temporarily suspended because of the new earthquake, amid dwindling hopes of finding more survivors from Saturday's quake.

That earthquake quake killed 480 people, left another 107 missing, and injured more than 4,600. It also destroyed about 1,500 buildings, triggered mudslides and tore up roads.

Some 20,500 people were left sleeping in shelters.

Supervising work in the disaster zone, President Rafael Correa said the weekend quake had inflicted $2bn to $3bn of damage to the economy and could knock 2 to 3 percentage points off growth.

Lower crude revenue had already left the poor Andean nation of 16 million people facing near-zero growth, cutting investment and forcing it to seek financing.

In isolated villages and towns, survivors struggled without water, power or transport, although aid was trickling in.

Along Ecuador's Pacific coast, sports stadiums served as both morgues and aid-distribution centers.

Scores of foreign aid workers and experts have come to help. About 14,000 security force members are keeping order, but sporadic looting has been reported.

Rescuers were losing hope of finding more people alive, although relatives of the missing begged them to keep looking.

"There is still a small margin of time to find survivors," Mr Correa said. "But I don't want to give excessive hope."

Irish Independent

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