The death toll from last week’s magnitude-7.8 earthquake that flattened towns along Ecuador’s coast has risen to 654 with another 58 people missing, the government said on Saturday.
The website of the secretariat for risk management said that 113 people had been rescued alive following the quake and more than 25,000 people remained in shelters.
The death toll from Ecuador’s quake has surpassed that of Peru’s 2007 temblor, making it the deadliest quake in South America since one in Colombia in 1999 killed more than 1,000 people.
Hundreds of aftershocks have rattled the country since last Saturday night’s quake and Ecuadoreans are still sleeping outside and struggling to find food and water. Aid is arriving from abroad but relief workers have warned of delays in water distribution and said mosquito-borne illness could spread through the camps.
President Rafael Correa has said the quake caused $3 billion in damage and warned that the reconstruction effort will take years. His administration is temporarily raising taxes to fund the recovery. Even before the quake, Ecuador was bracing for a bout of austerity, with the International Monetary Fund forecasting the economy would shrink 4.5 percent this year.