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Powerful 7.8 Earthquake in Ecuador Kills at Least 262


Volunteers rescue a body from a destroyed house after a massive earthquake in Pedernales, Ecuador, April 17, 2016.
Volunteers rescue a body from a destroyed house after a massive earthquake in Pedernales, Ecuador, April 17, 2016.

The death toll from Saturday's powerful earthquake in Ecuador reached 262 late Sunday with thousands who lost their homes facing another night on the streets.

Vice President Jorge Glas says more than 2,500 people are injured. He is overseeing the relief efforts until President Rafael Correa arrives after cutting short a visit to Italy.

The strong 7.8 magnitude quake struck along Ecuador's Pacific coast and was said to be felt throughout the entire country.

The tourist city of Pedernales and coastal area of Manta are among the hardest-hit areas. Rescuers were digging through the rubble with their bare hands looking for anyone who might be buried under collapsed homes and buildings.

Glas said Pedernales is destroyed.

"The country is in a state of disarray," said Denis Suarez, journalist from VOA TV affiliate Teleamazonas. "The aftershocks have affected people not just physically, but emotionally. I was at the supermarket when the earthquake began. The cans fell on the floor, people ran, the electrical wiring was moving, we lost electricity. That night a lot of people were unable to sleep."

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​ Canada's Global Affairs department, which handles the country's diplomatic relations, says two of its citizens are among the dead.

There was hope amid the destruction, as firefighters dispatched to Manta from the capital rescued one woman trapped in rubble.

The earthquake was felt 170 kilometers away in the capital Quito, where it knocked out electricity and cell phone coverage in several neighborhoods. Buildings swayed for about 40 seconds, causing people to rush into the streets.

Quito-based journalist Luis Alberto Otero said residents in the capital are used to earthquakes, but it was how long Saturday's shaking lasted that scared him.

"Everything moved," he told VOA's Latin America service Sunday. "I had to hold up the TV so it wouldn't fall."

"As soon as it was over, I got in my car. People were fleeing to the streets for safety. The power went out for a few hours and the phone lines were down; even today, a day later, it's hard to get a line out."

A bridge collapsed in the port city of Guayaquil.

Glas says the national guard has been mobilized to maintain public order.

An early tsunami alert has been suspended.

President Correa was in Rome at the time of the earthquake after attending a Vatican conference. He cut short the visit to return home.

Voz de America contributed to this report.

PHOTOS: Powerful Earthquake Hits Ecuador, Killing Dozens