The death toll from Ecuador's biggest earthquake in decades has soared to at least 233 as rescuers using tractors and bare hands hunt desperately for survivors in shattered coastal towns.
The 7.8 magnitude quake has devastated Ecquador's Pacific coastal region including the popular Pedernales tourist spot.
It struck off the Pacific coast on Saturday and was felt around the Andean nation of 16 million people, causing panic as far away as the highland capital Quito and collapsing buildings and roads in a swathe of western towns.
President Rafael Correa, who was rushing home from a trip to Italy, said the confirmed number of fatalities rose on Sunday to 233. "The immediate priority is to rescue people in the rubble," he said via Twitter.
More than 1500 people were injured, authorities say.
Coastal areas nearest the quake were worst affected, especially Pedernales, a rustic tourist spot with beaches and palm trees. Information was scant from there due to poor communications and transport chaos.
"There are people trapped in various places and we are starting rescue operations," Vice President Jorge Glas said on Sunday morning before boarding a plane to the area.
A state of emergency was declared in six provinces.
"There are villages totally devastated," Pedernales' mayor Gabriel Alcivar told local radio, adding that "dozens and dozens" had died in the area.
"What happened here in Pedernales is catastrophic."
Local TV station Televicentro broadcast images from Pedernales showing locals using a small tractor to remove rubble and also search with their hands for people buried underneath.
Women cried after a corpse was pulled out. Locals said children were trapped.
In Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, rubble lay in the streets and a bridge fell on top of a car.
About 13,500 security force personnel were mobilised to keep order around Ecuador, and US$600 million (NZ$867M) in credit from multilateral lenders was immediately activated for the emergency, the government said.
Parts of the highland capital Quito were without power or phone service for several hours but the city government said those services had been restored and there were no reports of casualties in the city.
The government called it the worst quake in the country since 1979. In that disaster, 600 people were killed and 20,000 injured, according to the United States Geological Survey.
Among international aid, Venezuela and Mexico were sending personnel and supplies, the Correa government said.
In Japan, authorities fear scores of people are still trapped under collapsed buildings after two powerful earthquakes late last week in the country's south.
In Tonga, there are no reports of damage from last night's 7.1 magnitude earthquake.
Newshub. / AAP