QUITO – President Rafael Correa estimated at $3 billion the amount to damage caused by the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that struck Ecuador’s Pacific coastal region last weekend, leaving 413 dead and more than 2,000 others injured.
“Losses are in the billions. I calculate them at roughly $3 billion, or 3 percent of GDP, and that means years of reconstruction,” the U.S.-educated economist said. “It will be a long struggle, so we can’t get discouraged.”
Correa lamented the loss of human lives and said the northern town of Canoa was proportionally the hardest hit by the quake, since 80 percent of that seaside resort has disappeared.
“It’s a ghost town,” the president said, acknowledging how difficult it is to reach that part of the coast.
The search for survivors and bodies among the rubble continues in the most affected areas.
The Foreign Ministry noted Tuesday the support of international organizations in dealing with the earthquake’s aftermath in such matters as search, rescue and recovery, priority attention to survivors, and in providing water, food, shelter and other necessities for the disaster victims.
The UN Refugee Agency now has work teams in the devastated areas, chiefly setting up shelters for those who lost their homes, according to the spokeswoman at its office in Quito, Sonia Aguilar.
She confirmed that in the coming hours, emergency aid will be sent to the 40,000 people displaced by the temblor, which will include some 900 tents, 18,000 containers of repellent to avoid tropical diseases, 15,000 air mattresses and an adequate amount of kitchen utensils.