Pedernales—The death toll from Ecuador’s earthquake was feared to rise sharply as authorities warned Tuesday that 1,700 people were still missing and anger gripped families of victims trapped in the rubble.
Three days after the powerful 7.8-magnitude quake struck Ecuador’s Pacific coast in a zone popular with tourists, 480 people are known to have died, the government said.
Sniffer dogs and mechanical diggers were busy at work in the wreckage of coastal towns such as Pedernales and Manta as the stench of rotting bodies grew stronger under the baking sun.
International rescuers and aid groups rushed to help victims as searchers dug for families trapped in the debris of homes, hotels and businesses.
“We have 2,000 people listed that are being looked for, but we have so far found 300,” Deputy Interior Minister Diego Fuentes told reporters in the capital Quito.
“Right now we have 480 people who were killed and approximately 2,560 people who were injured.”
Some survivors were reportedly pulled from the rubble, but hope of finding more victims alive was fading as the crucial three-day mark approached on Tuesday evening.
Locals in devastated towns such as Manta — population 253,000 — started to lose patience.
“The rescue has been very slow and precious lives have been lost. We relatives have been waiting here since Saturday night,” said Pedro Merro, who said his cousin was under the wreckage of a three-floor market in Manta.—AFP