PEDERNALES/PORTOVIEJO (Reuters) - The death toll from Ecuador’s devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake rose to 602 people on Friday, as dozens of aftershocks shook cities and towns around the country, spooking residents but causing no further damage.
Saturday’s quake, the worst in nearly seven decades, injured 12,492 people and left 130 missing, emergency management authorities said in a bulletin.
Survivors were shaken again late on Thursday night when a powerful 6.0 magnitude quake struck off Ecuador’s coast about 100 km (62 miles) north-northwest of Portoviejo and at a depth of 10 km (six miles).
“When it started to shake last night we started to pray,” said Alex Bachon, 43, a construction worker repairing damage from Saturday’s quake at a hotel in Guayaquil. “I have never seen anything like this, it’s been so bad.”
There were more than 70 aftershocks throughout Thursday night and Friday, the country’s geology institute reported. There have been a total of 700 aftershocks since Saturday’s quake.
The tremors will continue for several weeks, emergency management official Ricardo Penaherrera warned on Friday, and he called on Ecuadoreans to stay calm.
Survivors in the quake zone were receiving food, water and medicine from the government and scores of foreign aid workers, though President Rafael Correa has acknowledged that bad roads had delayed aid to some communities.
With close to 7,000 buildings destroyed, more than 26,000 people were living in shelters. Some 14,000 security personnel were keeping order in quake-hit area, with only sporadic looting reported.
Correa’s leftist government, facing a mammoth rebuilding task at a time of greatly reduced oil revenues in the OPEC country, has said it would temporarily increase some taxes, offer assets for sale and possibly issue bonds abroad to fund reconstruction.
Correa has estimated damage at $2 billion to $3 billion.
A raft of temporary tax increases should raise between $650 million and $1 billion, the government said, stressing those in quake areas would be exempt.
The 487 megawatt hydroelectric dam Sopladora, which is still in an experimental phase, could be one of the assets put on sale.
Lower oil revenue has already left the country of 16 million people facing near-zero growth and lower investment.
The government appealed for travelers to continue to fuel the $1.7 billion tourism industry, but visitors may be put off by warnings from health experts about the threat of mosquito-borne viruses in the quake area.
Reporting by Guillermo Granja in Pedernales, Henry Romero in Portoviejo, Ana Isabel Martinez in Guayaquil and Julia Symmes Cobb and Diego Ore in Quito; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer, Toni Reinhold