Ecuador Internacional

Ecuador earthquake: 'It's going to take us years to recover'

CNN - Catherine E. Shoichet, Rafael Romo, and Michael Pearson 20/04/2016

Photo: CNN

Photo: CNN

(CNN) - The powerful earthquake that killed more than 480 people in Ecuador is the worst disaster the country has faced in decades, a top official said Tuesday.

"It's the worst tragedy in 60 years," Defense Minister Ricardo Patiño said. "We're facing the most difficult phase right now, which is rescuing victims and recovering bodies."

The Ministry of Security's risk management agency released a statement updating the death toll from Saturday's magnitude-7.8 earthquake. It now stands at at least 480, with more than 4,000 injured.

Recovery 'years away'

"We're removing debris, and we will very likely find more bodies," Patiño told reporters. "It's going to take us years to recover from this."

Rescue crews and aid from Latin America and beyond have poured into the South American nation since the earthquake, which caused widespread damage throughout the country, but especially on the coast.

The earthquake is the deadliest to hit Ecuador since March 1987 when 1,000 people died in a 7.2-magnitude temblor, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Another earthquake in 1949 killed 5,000 people, Patiño told reporters Tuesday.

Tourist areas among hardest hit

The hardest-hit area of the South American nation was the coastal Manabi Province, where about 200 people died, said Ricardo Peñaherrera of Ecuador's national emergency management office. There were at least dozens and perhaps hundreds of collapsed buildings there, Patiño said.













The cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Pedernales, a tourist destination, saw the most devastation.

Images from around the country posted on social media by CNN crews in the field and local authorities showed huge piles of rubble, collapsed roads and rescuers rushing to help.

In Pedernales, a beautiful tourist city on the Pacific coast, the otherwise-stunning view out across the ocean is marred by the destruction from the shoreline, reaching back throughout the city.

A restaurant sits destroyed. Behind it, a five-story hotel, where rescuers have already recovered five bodies. Evidence of others trapped in the rubble brought a rush of help to the site, but as yet they haven't found anyone else alive there.

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