At least 233 people died after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Ecuador on Saturday, according to President Rafael Correa.
The 7.8 magnitude quake struck off the Pacific coast at 7pm local time on Saturday and was felt around the Andean nation of 16 million people, causing panic as far away as the highland capital of Quito.
— Judyth Mermelstein (@GadflyQuebec) April 17, 2016
Wide spread damage was reported, with a bridge destroyed in Guayaquil the most populous city in the country.
Rescue operations were in top gear as emergency workers tried to free victims trapped under the rubble while residents streamed into the streets of the country’s capital Quito and in other major towns across the country.
“The third floor of the building that we live in caved in and my family members including my children and sister are trapped there. I really pray that help arrives first so that my family is saved,” said a survivor.
Authorities said landslides were making it difficult for emergency workers to reach the towns hardest hit by the quake.
The earthquake is said to be Ecuador’s largest since 1979 and Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa took to social media platforms to condole with the affected residents.
The president who cut short his trip to Italy to return home also declared a state of national emergency across eight provinces that were worst hit by the quake.