Death toll tops 400, with thousands hurt, after earthquake in Ecuador

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At least 413 people were killed in the 7.8-magnitude quake that struck Ecuador, government officials said Monday, April 18, 2016.

International aid poured into Ecuador in the wake of an earthquake that killed hundreds along the country’s Pacific coast over the weekend.

Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela, Peru and other countries sent rescuers and aid. The European Union said Monday it had released 1 million euros in humanitarian aid to help victims of the Saturday evening quake, which injured thousands and left an unknown number homeless.

The United Nations said it was preparing a “major aid airlift,” and private aid organizations also rallied.

Ecuadorian officials said at least 272 people had died in the 7.8-magnitude quake, although Ecuador’s Security Minister César Navas told CNN affiliate Teleamazonas the death toll had risen to close to 350.

At least 2,527 people were hurt.

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. The cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Pedernales, a tourist destination, saw the most devastation but damage was widespread throughout the country.

Videos showed rescuers pulling a young girl underneath the rubble of the Hotel Miami in the province of Manabi, finally getting her out and taking her away on a stretcher.

Ecuador deployed 10,000 soldiers and 4,600 police officers to the affected areas. Troops set up mobile hospitals and temporary shelters. The military also brought in search dogs to help find survivors and bodies.

Still, getting supplies and rescue crews to the affected areas has been a challenge.

“The lack of water and communication remains a big problem,” Peñaherrera told CNN en Español. “Many highways are in bad shape, especially in the mountainous area because it has been raining recently due to (the) El Niño weather phenomenon.”

President Rafael Correa arrived in the city of Portoviejo on Sunday night after cutting short his visit to a Vatican conference. He toured the area again Monday.

“I have infinite gratitude to the spirit of the Ecuadorian people, of our firefighters, our soldiers, our policemen and all workers who haven’t slept, haven’t eaten as they work hard to save lives,” he said after arriving.

The President’s official Twitter account used a hashtag that translated to “Ecuador ready and in solidarity” and showed him at one of the disaster sites.

The earthquake hit Saturday around 7 p.m. in this country of 15 million people, buckling overpasses and trapping drivers. A shopping mall partially collapsed on customers and several buildings were flattened, their contents spilling out into the streets.

Video from a store in Guayaquil showed kitchen utensils swinging back and forth as some items tumbled off shelves.

“It was the worst experience of my life,” survivor Jose Meregildo said Sunday about the tremors that violently shook his house in Guayaquil, 300 miles away from the quake’s epicenter. “Everybody in my neighborhood was screaming, saying it was going to be the end of the world.”

Some of the coastal provinces are under states of emergency.

Ecuador’s Interior Ministry ordered all nightlife venues in affected areas closed temporarily, and the nation’s soccer federation suspended the Ecuadorian championship tournament.

The earthquake was the deadliest to hit the nation since March 1987, when a 7.2-magnitude earthquake killed 1,000 people, according to the USGS.

On Sunday, Pope Francis asked for prayers for those affected by the earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan.

“Last night a violent earthquake hit Ecuador, causing numerous victims and great damages,” Francis said. “Let’s pray for those populations, and for those of Japan, where as well there has been some earthquakes in the last days.”

Japan was hit with a series of earthquakes last week that killed dozens.