Powerful earthquake kills at least 41 in Ecuador

QUITO, ECUADOR, 17th April, 2016 (WAM) -- A powerful, 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Ecuador's central coast on Saturday, killing at least 41 people and spreading panic hundreds of kilometers away as shock-waves collapsed homes and buckled a major overpass.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the shallow quake, the strongest to hit Ecuador since 1979 , was centered 27 kilometers (16 miles) south-southeast of Muisne, a sparsely populated area of fishing ports that's popular with tourists.

Vice President Jorge Glas said in a televised address that there were initial reports of 41 dead in the cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Guayaquil all several hundred kilometers from where the quake struck shortly after nightfall. He said the death toll is likely to rise as reports from the worst-hit areas come in.

"We're trying to do the most we can but there's almost nothing we can do," said Gabriel Alcivar, Mayor of Pedernales, a town of 40,000 near the epicenter. He pleaded for rescuers as dozens of buildings in the town were flattened, people trapped and looting broke out amid the chaos. "This wasn't just a house that collapsed, it was an entire town."


WAM/Ahlam/Moran