Desperate search for survivors in quake-hit Ecuador and Japan

A national emergency has been declared in Ecuador as rescuers scramble to find survivors following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake which has claimed at least 272 lives. President Rafael Correa landed back in the country late on Sunday to oversee the relief effort after cutting short a trip to the Vatican. Ecuadoreans have been warned that the number of fatalities is likely to rise as more than 2,000 people were injured following the strong quake and many others remain unaccounted for. But thousands of food packages and nearly 8,000 sleeping kits have been delivered from neighbouring countries, bringing warmth to the many thousands left homeless and with no choice but to sleep outside in the dark.

Ecuador has been hit tremendously hard … this is the greatest tragedy in the last 67 years. There are signs of life in much of the rubble and that is the priority.

President Rafael Correa

It has emerged that the forceful tremors allowed about 180 inmates to break out of a prison in the western town of Portoviejo, and dozens are yet to be captured. Manuel Quijije said his older brother was trapped underneath a pile of twisted steel and concrete, adding: “We managed to see his arms and legs. They’re his, they’re buried, but the police kicked us out because they say there’s a risk the rest of the building will collapse.” Meanwhile, in Japan, 250,000 people have been evacuated from their homes as the search for survivors goes on after a series of strong earthquakes. Saturday morning’s 7.3 magnitude quake has killed at least 33 people, with more than a thousand people injured. Nine others died in Thursday’s tremors.

We’re not afraid. We’re desperate. We want to pull out our family.

Ecuador resident Manuel Quijije