Follows series of killer quakes in Japan that began April 14

(From Reuters and other agencies)

At least 233 people died and over 1,500 were injured in Ecuador when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck off the country’s northwest Pacific coast late on Saturday, causing “considerable damage” near the epicenter as well as in the largest city of Guayaquil. A state of emergency has been 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.

According to reports, top officials say Ecuador is in a state of emergency and hundreds of rescue workers are rushing in after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck near its Pacific coast.President Rafael Correa has signed a decree declaring a national emergency and is rushing home from Rome.

It is described by the Government as the worst quake in the country since 1979, when 600 people were killed and 20,000 injured, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The Andean nation’s government recommended residents leave coastal areas over concern for rising tides following the quake.

Alarmed residents streamed into the streets of the capital Quito, hundreds of kilometers (miles) away, and other towns across the nation.

“Based on preliminary information, there are 16 people dead in the city of Portoviejo, 10 in Manta and two in the province of Guayas,” said Vice President Jorge Glas in a televised address. “We continue to receive information.”

The country’s Geophysics Institute in a bulletin described “considerable damage” in the area of the epicenter and in Guayaquil, without providing further details.

 It said the quake struck at around 8:00 p.m. (0100 GMT) at a depth of 20 km (12.4 miles), and was followed by 55 aftershocks.

Social media pictures showed a collapsed bridge in Guayaquil and a collapsed tower at an airport in the city of Manta. Read more

Related stories: Japan and earthquakes: A study guide; Japan earthquakes: 41 dead, storm to hit rescue efforts tonight

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