Ecuador quake: 'Houses rocked like a boat'


The death toll from the earthquake in Ecuador has soared to 272, with more than 2500 people injured.

Six provinces have declared a state of emergency but the hardest hit is Manabi, where around 200 people have died.

Yesterday's 7.8 magnitude earthquake is the biggest in Ecuador since 1979, when an 8.2 magnitude quake killed up to 600 people.

The government has sent 10,000 soldiers and 4600 police officers to affected areas, and the death toll is expected to rise as those searching for survivors recover more bodies.

Beneath the rubble of a collapsed building three people waited to be saved. Rescuers communicated through a gap in the wreckage, hoping to clear the debris before it was too late.

Rescues are being carried out in towns and cities up and down Ecuador's Pacific coast. But as each hour passes, the chance of finding survivors diminishes.

Hundreds of aftershocks have followed the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which was felt across the nation.

"The quake lasted nearly 50 seconds. Pretty much the house moved like a boat. It really rocked like a boat," says Hector Ballesteros.

Mayra Salazar Roman ducked for cover beneath a table with her baby when the earthquake struck.

"The person was running, the person was crying from the streets. Electricity was no good; it was very dark," she says.

Now, there's a rush to distribute aid, but many of the worst-affected areas are cut off by landslides.

"We are feeling helpless on how to help those in need right now in the towns, where basically they have no roof, no food. People have not eaten since yesterday afternoon," says Mr Ballesteros.

Aid agencies say they won't let the quake stop them doing their job.

"We have volunteers who will do whatever. They'll walk this stuff in if they have to. If they have to bring it in literally on animal backs, we'll get the stuff there if we know where it is that we have to get to," says head of operations at International Federation of Red Cross Jan Gelfrand.

Ecuador's government has already set aside more than $400 million for rescues and rebuilding.