Saturday, April 23, 2016

Ecuador earthquake: Death toll reaches more than 600, aftershocks continue to spook nation

The death toll from Ecuador's devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake has risen to 602 people, as dozens of aftershocks shook cities and towns around the country, spooking residents but causing no further damage.
Last Saturday's quake, the worst in nearly seven decades, injured 12,492 people and left 130 missing, emergency management authorities said in a bulletin.
Survivors were shaken again late on Thursday night when a powerful magnitude-6.0 quake struck off Ecuador's coast about 100 kilometres north-north-west of Portoviejo and at a depth of 10 kilometres.
"When it started to shake last night we started to pray," said Alex Bachon, 43, a construction worker repairing damage from the first quake at a hotel in Guayaquil.
"I have never seen anything like this, it's been so bad."
There were more than 70 aftershocks throughout Thursday night and Friday, the country's geology institute reported.
There have been a total of 700 aftershocks since last Saturday's quake.
The tremors will continue for several weeks, emergency management official Ricardo Penaherrera warned on Friday, and he called on Ecuadoreans to stay calm.
Survivors in the quake zone were receiving food, water and medicine from the Government and scores of foreign aid workers, though President Rafael Correa acknowledged that bad roads delayed aid to some communities.
With close to 7,000 buildings destroyed, more than 26,000 people were living in shelters. Some 14,000 security personnel were keeping order in quake-hit area, with only sporadic looting reported.
Officials say 113 survivors have been rescued from the rubble but hopes of finding more are slim.

The cost of rebuilding

Correa's leftist Government, facing a mammoth rebuilding task at a time of greatly reduced oil revenues in the OPEC country, has said it would temporarily increase some taxes, offer assets for sale and possibly issue bonds abroad to fund reconstruction.
Correa has estimated damage at $US2 billion ($2.5 billion) to $US3 billion ($3.8 billion).
A raft of temporary tax increases should raise between $US650 million ($842 million) and $US1 billion ($1.2 billion), the Government said, stressing those in quake areas would be exempt.
The 487-megawatt hydroelectric dam Sopladora, which is still in an experimental phase, could be one of the assets put on sale.
Lower oil revenue has already left the country of 16 million people facing near-zero growth and lower investment.
The quake came as a particularly severe blow to the tourism sector, just as the Government was launching a major push to attract more tourists.
The South American country had only recently aired a Super Bowl commercial touting its beaches, islands and other charms — the first country ever to buy the American football championship's notoriously expensive ad airtime.
The Government appealed for travellers to continue to fuel the $US1.7 billion ($2.2 billion) tourism industry, but visitors may be put off by warnings from health experts about the threat of mosquito-borne viruses in the quake area.
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