Viet Nam News -
PEDERNALES, Ecuador — Rescuers and desperate families clawed through rubble on Monday, pulling out the first survivors of an earthquake that killed at least 413 people and destroyed towns in a tourist region of Ecuador.
Tearful relatives grabbed chunks of debris with their bare hands as they joined in the search for their loved ones along with stretched firefighting teams and mechanical diggers.
Among the stories of survival, local media said a girl was rescued from the ruins of a building after being trapped for 20 hours in the hard-hit town of Pedernales, at the center of the quake.
Firefighters said on Twitter they pulled out three other survivors from rubble in the town of Manta.
But the government raised the death toll to 413, two days after the 7.8-magnitude quake that struck the South American nation.
"We are counting 413 people dead at present," the country’s Security Ministry said on Monday, updating the count from 350 earlier in the day.
At that time authorities said more than 2,000 people were injured.
Foreign countries and organizations dispatched rescue teams to help the search and medical units to treat the thousands of people injured, saying tens of thousands would need aid.
Rebuilding the destroyed areas will probably cost billions of dollars, President Rafael Correa said during a visit to Pedernales.
Correa said on Sunday that the death toll would "certainly rise and probably in a considerable way" in the hours ahead.
"There are still lots of bodies in the rubble," he warned. "These are extremely difficult times, the biggest tragedy in the last 67 years."
He was referring to an August 1949 earthquake near the central Ecuadoran city of Ambato that killed some 5,000 people.
In Pedernales, Mayor Gabriel Alcivar estimated there were hundreds of dead buried under the rubble of collapsed hotels.
Soldiers patrolled the beach town, and the Red Cross and the army opened a field hospital and a makeshift morgue at the local stadium.
Aid flows in
Foreigners killed by the quake include two Canadians, five Colombians and at least one US national, officials said.
A Catholic missionary nun from Northern Ireland was killed along with three trainee nuns at a school, her religious congregation said.
Although Ecuador frequently suffers seismic shudders because of its position on the Pacific Rim’s "Ring of Fire", the weekend’s quake – which lasted a full minute -- was the worst in nearly 40 years.
International sympathy and offers of help flowed in.
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said it was preparing to airlift supplies including hundreds of tents and kitchen sets as well as mosquito nets to protect people from the Zika virus.
It said it aimed to provide shelter and aid to 40,000 people, including Colombian refugees settled in the area.
The Spanish Red Cross estimated that up to 100,000 people would need assistance.
The World Bank said it had a credit line of $150 million ready to help with reconstruction. Correa’s government said it had access to $600 million in emergency credit overall.— AFP