President Rafael Correa Tweeted Sunday morning that the official death toll has risen to 233 but he expects the toll to go much higher. Correa is on his way back to Ecuador from Rome where he was participating in an academic forum in Vatican City.
An hour later, Vice President Jorge Glas reported that the count of confirmed injured had increased to 1,557.
In a television interview, the mayor of Pedernales said he believes there are 300 to 400 people buried in collapsed buildings in his town. “Most of them are probably dead but we need help immediately to save the living,” said Mayor Gabriel Alcivar. He added that most of the city’s hotels have collapsed and says a number of tourists have probably been killed.
Alcivar said that the bodies of victims are lined up on the street in front of the badly damaged health center. “We have no place to keep them,” he said.
Access to Pedernales and other towns near the epicenter of the earthquake, has become a challenge for many of the 14,000 soldiers and police headed to the area. “Bridges have come down and many roads are impassible due to buckled asphalt or landslides,” said National Police Captain Paúl Lascano. “We will get through, however, one way or the other,” but said getting heavy equipment to the places it is needed will be difficult.
Rescue workers from Colombia have arrived in Esmeraldas and offers are being considered from other countries, according to Vice President Jorge Glas. “Many people are opening their hearts to us and we appreciate it,” he said.
Glas pointed out that, over the years, Colombia and Ecuador have come to each others’ assistance following earthquakes in northern Ecuador and southern Colombia. Ecuadorian rescuers played a vital role following two strong earthquakes in southern Colombia in 1979, he said.
The government has shut down the oil refinery at Esmeraldas as a precautionary measure but says they are unaware of major damage. Nearby residents said they heard explosions coming from the plant during Saturday night’s quake.
The airport at Manta sustained major damage to its control tower and reception lounge but authorities say the runway remains in usable condition. Flights provided by Tame are landing with relief supplies and workers. Vice President Glas arrived there early Sunday.