Officials Fear Quake Killed 300 in Ecuador

From Reuters

Up to 300 were feared dead and more than 15,000 people were left homeless by Ecuador's earthquake last week, and damage totaled at least $950 million, authorities said Monday.

"The magnitude of the damage caused by the earthquake is gigantic," President Leon Febres Cordero said after a trip to Napo, the hardest-hit jungle province 100 miles from here.

Shaking loose earth from the hills, a quake Thursday night, followed by more than 1,300 mostly minor aftershocks, triggered landslides, swelling the Aguarico River. The river burst its banks, carrying away houses and huts and an unknown number of people in the province, Health Minister Jorge Bracho said.

"We fear that up to 300 people died in Napo, although there is no way of now knowing the exact figure because there are many (who) disappeared," he said.

River's Width Doubled

The possible death toll was based on the Tena Hospital director's assessment late Sunday night of the number of homes ravaged by the Aguarico. The landslides more than doubled the river's width to over 400 yards, Bracho said.

So far, only about 20 bodies of victims have been recovered.

The quake registered 6 on the Richter scale, as measured in Quito. Geologists said the intensity of the quake was greater than 6 near the tremor's epicenter, not far from the the Reventador volcano, 55 miles from Quito.

In Cayambe district, 50 miles north of here, the quake destroyed 3,000 homes, mostly made of adobe, Bracho said.

"You have 15,000 homeless people there who have to sleep in the open air in the rain," he said. "The danger of sickness is great."

Another 300 homeless people in Napo had been evacuated by military helicopters to Quito.

The impact of the quake, which damaged 25 miles of oil pipeline, has forced Ecuador, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, to suspend exports of crude oil.

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