domingo, 17 de abril de 2016

Dozens killed as 7.8-magnitude earthquake hits Ecuador

Dozens killed as 7.8-magnitude earthquake hits Ecuador
Fearful residents stream into streets of the capital Quito while major city of Guayaquil is among places worst hit

Reuters in Quito
Sunday 17 April 2016 09.05 BST

Ecuador’s Pacific coast was struck by the country’s strongest earthquake in decades, a 7.8-magnitude tremor that has killed at least 77 people, flattened buildings and damaged roads near the epicentre, as well as in the country’s largest city of Guayaquil.

President Rafael Correa declared a national emergency and urged the country’s 16 million people to stay calm. More than 570 people are believed to have been injured in the quake.

“Our infinite love to the families of the dead,” he said on Twitter, while cutting short a trip to Italy to return home.

The government recommended residents leave coastal areas after concerns for rising tides following the quake.

Alarmed residents streamed into the streets of the capital, Quito, hundreds of kilometres away, and other towns across Ecuador.

The government said the death toll would likely rise and damage was “serious”, especially in the western coastal areas nearest the quake and in Guayaquil.

The vice-president, Jorge Glas,said it was the strongest quake to hit Ecuador since 1979. “We continue to receive information,” he said, adding that 16 people had died in the city of Poroviejo, 10 in Manta and others in the province of Guayas.

The country’s Geophysics Institute in a bulletin described “considerable damage” in the area of the epicentre and in Guayaquil, without providing further details.

It said the earthquake struck at about 8pm local time at a depth of 12.4 miles (20km).

At least 36 aftershocks have followed, one as strong as six on the Richter scale, and residents have been warned to brace themselves for even stronger aftershocks in the coming hours.

Social media pictures showed a crumbling bridge in Guayaquil and a collapsed tower at an airport in the city of Manta, which injured an air traffic control worker and a security guard.

“I was in my house watching a movie and everything started to shake. I ran out into the street and now I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Lorena Cazares, 36, a telecommunications worker in Quito.

Parts of the capital were left without power or telephone service, with many communicating only via WhatsApp. Photos on social media showed cracks in the walls of shopping centres. The capital’s municipal government later said power had been restored and there were no reports of casualties.

“There are villages that are totally devastated,” said Gabriel Alcívar, mayor of the city of Pedernales in the hard-hit province of Manabi, in a radio interview. “What happened here in Pedernales is catastrophic.”

Alcívar called for more help from authorities to send earth-moving machines and emergency rescue workers. “This wasn’t just a house that collapsed, it was an entire town,” he said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said tsunami waves reaching 0.3 to one metre (one to three feet) above tide level were possible for some coastal areas of Ecuador.

State officials said the Opec nation’s oil production was not affected by the quake but that the principal refinery of Esmeraldas, located near the epicentre, had been halted as a precaution.

Neighbouring Peru issued a tsunami alert for the north of the country following the quake.

Across the Pacific in Japan, a 7.3-magnitude tremor struck Kumamoto province early on Saturday, killing at least 32 people, injuring about a thousand and causing widespread damage, in the second major quake to hit the island of Kyushu in just over 24 hours. The first, late on Thursday, killed nine.

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