QUITO – The number of confirmed fatalities from last weekend’s magnitude-7.8 earthquake on Ecuador’s northern Pacific coast stands at 443, Defense Minister Ricardo Patiño said Tuesday.
“We are certain that that figure will continue rising,” he said. “We will surely find more bodies.”
More than 4,000 other people were injured in the temblor and 231 individuals are listed as missing, the defense chief said.
He said supplies of water, food and other necessities were available to people in the affected areas from Community Police Units, with 10 military personnel deployed to each unit to ensure the security of aid distribution.
Electricity was restored to most of the disaster zone within 60 hours of Saturday’s quake with the exception of Manta, where the presence of underground power lines makes the process much more complicated, Patiño said.
Around 20,000 people have been left homeless by the earthquake, Foreign Minister Guillaume Long told a press conference.
More than 650 rescue specialists have arrived in Ecuador from various countries to reinforce the local teams searching the rubble for survivors and bodies, he said.
While those efforts will continue, the focus will shift in the coming days to the needs of those forced from their homes, Long said, adding that this second phase “could take several months and even several years.”
Earlier Tuesday, President Rafael Correa offered a preliminary damage estimate of $3 billion.
“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.”