Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ecuador Death Toll Keeps Rising as New Jolts Cause Jitters

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ecuador Death Toll Keeps Rising as New Jolts Cause Jitters

Article excerpt

MANTA, Ecuador * A fresh tremor rattled Ecuador before dawn Wednesday, a magnitude-6.1 jolt that set babies crying and shaken residents pouring once again into the streets, fearful of yet more damage following a monster earthquake over the weekend.

It was the strongest aftershock yet following Saturday's magnitude-7.8 quake that killed more than 500 people. Some people in Portoviejo abandoned their homes, even those with no apparent damage, and headed through the night toward a former airport where temporary shelters have been set up.

Meanwhile, scenes of mourning multiplied all along Ecuador's normally placid Pacific coastline as people began burying loved ones and hope faded that more survivors will be found. Funeral homes were running out of caskets, and local governments were paying to bring in coffins from other cities.

In the small town of Montecristi, near the port of Manta, two children were among those buried Tuesday. They were killed with their mother while buying school supplies when the big quake struck.

The funeral had to be held outside under a makeshift awning, because the town's Roman Catholic church was damaged and unsafe. Family members wailed loudly and one man fainted as the children were laid to rest in an above-ground vault.

The government put the death toll at 553 on Wednesday up from a previous official toll of 525 but officials expected more bodies to be found. At least 100 people remain missing and another 4,600 injured. At least 11 foreigners among the dead, including two Canadians and three Cuban doctors who had been on a medical mission to Ecuador.

The final toll could surpass casualties from earthquakes in Chile and Peru in the past decade.

Among the survivors, the situation was growing increasingly tense. While humanitarian aid has been pouring in from around the world, distribution is slow. In Manta on Wednesday, residents waited for hours under the tropical midday sun for water and food supplies. The army kept control behind fenced barricades.

Yet even as grief mounted, there were glimmers of hope.

In several cities, rescuers with sniffer dogs, hydraulic jacks and special probes that can detect breathing from far away continued to search for survivors among the rubble. …

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