New aftershocks rattled Ecuador and hopes of finding survivors in the rubble all but evaporated, nearly a week after a huge earthquake that killed more than 600 people and injured thousands.
A 6.0-magnitude quake struck just off the coast of northwest Ecuador around 10:00 pm (local time) on Thursday, the US Geological Survey said.
It was followed by smaller aftershocks yesterday morning, ranging in magnitude from 4.0 to 5.2, said Ecuador’s Geophysics Institute.
The shaking could be felt in Manabi province, most affected by last week’s 7.8-magnitude quake, as well as in the provinces of Esmeraldas and Los Rios, and in the cities of Santo Domingo, Guayaquil and the capital Quito.
But there were no immediate reports of new casualties or damage. A carpenter who declined to give his name was among the legions trying to fetch a few belongings from their ruined homes, despite the heavily damaged roads.
“Why stay?” he asked, his eyes filled with tears. “My wife died. I have nothing left to do here.” Ecuadoran authorities say more than 700 aftershocks have struck since Saturday’s earthquake, the worst to hit Latin America and the Caribbean since the 2010 quake in Haiti, which killed between 200,000 and 250,000 people.
The official toll from Saturday’s quake now stands at 602 dead and 130 missing. Another 12,492 people were injured and more than 26,000 left homeless.
Nearly 7,000 buildings were destroyed and more than 2,700 damaged. The United Nations appealed Friday for USD 72.7 million to provide aid to 350,000 people over the next three months— about half the number it estimates are in need of help.
Humanitarian organizations warn the country still faces huge risks, as the legions of homeless are now prey to disease-bearing mosquitoes and dirty drinking water. Electricity and water supplies are only being slowly restored.
Many businesses in affected areas have closed their shutters, fearing looters—which has made it all the more difficult to find food and basic necessities. The quake crumpled hundreds of buildings up and down Ecuador’s Pacific coast, turning picturesque resort towns into something resembling a war zone.