77 killed in Ecuador after 7.8-magnitude quake, more casualties feared

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A 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed at least 77 people, injured hundreds more, ravaged coastal towns and sent residents fleeing for higher ground in Ecuador on Saturday night.

The earthquake struck off Ecuador’s Pacific coast and was felt hundreds of miles (km) away in the capital of Quito as well as in the large commercial city of Guayaquil, where rubble lay strewn in the streets and some buildings were cracked or partially collapsed.

A bridge in the city collapsed on top of car, crushing it.

The earthquake was Ecuador’s worst in decades and officials said the death toll was likely to rise even higher as rescue teams headed into the hardest-hit areas.

“It was terrifying, we were all scared and we’re still out in the streets because we’re worried about aftershocks,” said Guayaquil security guard Fernando Garcia. “Everything is damaged.”

A state of emergency was declared in six provinces.

The areas worst affected include Pedernales, which draws tourists with beaches lined with palm-trees and tropical thatch-hut restaurants, as well as nearby Cojimies.

“There are villages that are totally devastated,” Pedernales’ mayor, Gabriel Alcivar, said in a radio interview. “What happened here in Pedernales is catastrophic.”

Ramon Solorzano, 46, a car parts merchant in the city of Manta, said he was getting ready to leave the city with his family.

“Most people are out in the streets with backpacks on, heading for higher ground,” he said, speaking in a trembling voice via a WhatsApp phone call. “The streets are cracked. The power is out and phones are down.”

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