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Ecuador Earthquake: Death Toll Rises To 233

At least 233 people have been confirmed dead after Ecuador was hit by its most powerful earthquake in decades.

Some 10,000 troops and 3,500 police are being deployed in the affected areas, as rescue operations got under way.

The magnitude-7.8 quake struck early on Saturday evening and was felt as far away as neighbouring Colombia.

Coastal areasPiles of rubble after Ecuador's earthquake in the north-west were closest to the epicentre and officials say the death toll is likely to rise as information begins to come in.

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa gave the latest death toll on his twitter feed while flying back from a visit to Italy he cut short to deal with the disaster.

He has declared a state of emergency and earlier called on his country to be “calm and united”

The country’s Ecuador’s Vice-President Jorge Glas, visiting one of the worst hit cities, Manta, met a resident who pleaded for people trapped under rubble.

“We have to be quiet so that rescuers can listen [for survivors],” Mr Glas told him. “We cannot go in with heavy machinery because it can be tragic for the wounded.”

Helicopters and buses are ferrying troops north but have been hampered by landslides.

In some areas people are using their bare hands to try to dig out survivors.

Food and other essentials has been handed out and international aid was also beginning, with the first coming from Venezuela and Mexico.

At least 500 people were injured in the quake, which was felt across the country.

Widespread severe damage is reported, with a bridge destroyed as far south as Guayaquil about 300km (190 miles) away.

Gabriel Alcivar, mayor of Pedernales, close to the epicentre, said the “entire town” had been flattened.

“We’re trying to do the most we can but there’s almost nothing we can do,” he added, warning that looting had broken out.

In Manta, one woman said: “The third floor collapsed on top of us.

“They are all there, my family, my sister, my children. They are all there, there are a lot of people. My God, may the help arrive.”

Cristian Ibarra Santillan was in the capital Quito when the quake struck.

“There had been some small tremors going on for about two or three months and I thought it was one of those but after about 20, 30 seconds it started to get really strong,” he told the BBC.

“And I grabbed my dog and I hid under the table. But then I realised that it wasn’t going away so I just ran with him outside.”

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