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World & Nation

Hope for more quake survivors is running out as death toll in Ecuador reaches 577

Ecuador quake

A shelter in Portoviejo, Ecuador, on April 21, 2016.

(Juan Cevallos / AFP/Getty Images)

Rescue workers in Ecuador continued to sort through rubble in search of 155 people still missing after last weekend’s massive earthquake.

Five people were pulled out alive late Wednesday, including an Argentine tourist and his 3-year-old son. But as days pass, the chances of finding more survivors diminish.

The death toll as of Thursday afternoon stood at 577, up from 553 a day earlier. Foreign Minister Guillaume Long said that figure included 20 foreigners.

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The rescue effort was focused on the coastal province of Manabi, which was hit hardest by the magnitude 7.8 quake Saturday.

The government has begun planning for multibillion-dollar reconstruction. President Rafael Correa proposed a series of emergency measures to pay for it. They include a increase in the sales tax, a surtax on corporate profits and a special tax on wealthy people.

In addition, anybody earning more than $1,000 a month will be required to contribute one day’s salary to a reconstruction fund.

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Correa, who has estimated the cost of reconstruction at $3 billion, said the nation would also raise money by selling government-owned assets, though he didn’t specify which ones.

He said he would send the emergency tax bill to the National Assembly for approval in coming days. The economy minister said it aims to raise $1 billion.

The government said a total of 1,125 buildings were destroyed, leaving about 25,000 people in emergency shelters.

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International aid continued to arrive. A Colombian air force cargo plane landed in Manta on Wednesday with 15 tons of food, electric generators, tents and a specialized rescue team, a day after a Colombian navy ship unloaded 55,000 gallons of water and half a ton of clothing and medicines at the Pacific port of Esmeraldas.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government announced it was sending a shipload of 30 tons of relief supplies including food, tents and electric generators capable of helping 2,000 people.

Bolivia has sent 50 rescue workers and a Hercules military aircraft filled with 10 tons of medicine, water and food for those left homeless.

Viteri is a special correspondent. Special correspondent Chris Kraul in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.

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