Ecuador earthquake death toll rises to 413, one American dead

Updated

The death toll from Ecuador’s earthquake rose to 413 on Monday as the State Department confirmed at least one U.S. citizen was killed.

“We are aware of the death of one U.S. citizen and have been in touch with their family.” John Kirby, a spokesman for the department, said. “We will continue working with Ecuadorian authorities going forward.”

Kirby did not identify the dead American. Earlier, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said two Canadians were killed.

The developments came after Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa rushed home Sunday to coordinate rescue and recovery efforts from the 7.8-magnitude temblor that injured an additional 2000 people, reduced hundreds of buildings to rubble and buckled major highways.

Most of the deaths were in and around Portoviejo, a city of 200,000 where rescue crews worked around the clock to free people trapped in the wreckage of collapsed buildings.

“The pain is immense, but the spirit of the Ecuadorian people is greater,” Correa said. “We will move forward from this.”

The earthquake hit the South American country’s northwest coast at 6:58 p.m. Saturday (7:58 p.m. ET).

It came on the heels of a smaller 4.5-magnitude quake, which was recorded along the coast south of Muisne, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The country’s Geophysics Institute said it recorded 230 aftershocks, some of them quite powerful.

Correa, who cut short a trip to Italy to return home, said the immediate priority was the search and rescue mission. “Everything can be rebuilt, but lives cannot be recovered, and that’s what hurts the most,” he said.

Standing next to a wrecked building in Portoviejo, Manuel Quijije said his older brother, Junior, was trapped under a pile of twisted steel and concrete with two relatives.

“For God’s sake help me find my family,” the 27-year-old cried out. “We managed to see his arms and legs. They’re his, they’re buried, but the police kicked us out because they say there’s a risk the rest of the building will collapse. We’re not afraid. We’re desperate. We want to pull out our family.”

Alice Gandelman and Bill Freedman of Vallejo, California, were on vacation in the seaside town of San Clemente when the quake hit.

“We’re from the Bay Area. We feel earthquakes,” Gandelman told NBC station KCRA of Sacramento. “But this was pretty intense — more than anything we’ve felt in the Bay Area.”

Freedman told NBC Bay Area that he saw entire buildings that had been caved in and crumbled cement littering the town.

“It started, and there was a big boom, and everyone ran out of the restaurant,” Freedman said. “And then it went completely dark.”

Freedman said many of the buildings were made of cement, like the sidewalks, which he said he saw crumbling before his eyes.

“We had no way to get out. We had no place to go,” he said. “And we had to go back and get our stuff, so if a tsunami had happened, I don’t think we would have made it out.”

The quake damaged El Rodeo prison in the city of Portoviejo, allowing about 100 prisoners to escape, Justice Minister Ledy Zúñiga said. About 30 had been recaptured by Sunday night, Zúñiga said.

Seeking security from any unrest, about 400 residents of Portoviejo gathered Sunday night on the tarmac of the city’s former airport, where authorities handed out water, mattresses and food.

Shantytowns and cheaply constructed brick and concrete homes were reduced to rubble along the quake’s path. In the coastal town of Chamanga, authorities estimated than 90 percent of homes had damage, while in Guayaquil a shopping center’s roof fell in and a collapsed highway overpass crushed a car, killing the driver.

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com.

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Ecuador earthquake death toll rises to 413, one American dead

Updated