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Two Canadians among more than 270 killed in Ecuador earthquake

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Apr 18th, 2016

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Global Affairs Canada says consular officials are in contact with the families of two Canadians killed in a devastating earthquake which struck Ecuador on Saturday night.

Rescuers pulled survivors from rubble Sunday after the strongest earthquake to hit the country in decades flattened buildings and buckled highways along its Pacific coast. Officials said the quake killed at least 272 people and injured more than 2,500. Vice-President Jorge Glas said at a sombre news conference that the death toll was likely to rise.

The magnitude-7.8 quake, the strongest since 1979, was centered on Ecuador’s sparsely populated fishing ports and tourist beaches, 170 kilometres northwest of Quito, the capital.

“I am saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life stemming from Saturday’s devastating earthquake near the central coast of Ecuador, which has already cost the lives of at least 233, including two Canadians,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion in a statement.

The Globe and Mail reports the two are from Quebec, identifying them as Jennifer Mawn and her teenaged son Arthur. Mawn’s husband, Pascal Laflamme, and her daughter Laurie-Ann, suffered minor injuries in the quake. The family, originally from Montreal, had just recently moved to Ecuador after spending the last eight years living and working on an island in the Indian Ocean.

“Canadian officials at our embassy in Quito are reaching out to Canadian citizens in-country and providing assistance to Canadians affected by the earthquake. We will continue to work with local authorities to assess impact and needs on the ground,” said Dion.

Global Affairs Canada has asked friends and relatives of those known to be travelling in Ecuador to contact their emergency response centre.

“As developments continue to unfold, and on behalf of the Government of Canada, I extend my deepest condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of the victims. I also extend my wishes for a swift recovery to those who sustained injuries,” said Dion.

Much of the damage occurred in the cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Guayaquil – all several hundred kilometres (miles) from the centre of the quake, which struck shortly after nightfall Saturday.

In Pedernales, a town of 40,000 near the quake’s epicenter, dozens of frightened residents prepared to sleep in the streets for a second straight night as power cables were strewn across streets with no prospect of electricity being restored soon.

Pedernales Mayor Gabriel Alcivar pleaded for authorities to send earth-moving machines and rescue workers to help find people in the rubble. He said looting had broken out amid the chaos but authorities were too busy trying to save lives to re-establish order.

“This wasn’t just a house that collapsed. It was an entire town,” he said.

President Rafael Correa, who cut short a trip to Rome to oversee relief efforts, declared a national emergency and urged Ecuadoreans to stay strong.

Searchers scrambled through ruins in the provincial capital Portoviejo, digging with their hands trying to find survivors. As officials set up shelters and field hospitals, residents said they felt like the entire town had been flattened.

More than 3,000 packages of food and nearly 8,000 sleeping kits were being delivered. Electricity mostly remained out in Manabi province, the hardest-hit region, as authorities focused on finding survivors.

On social media, Ecuadorians celebrated a video of a baby girl being pulled from beneath a collapsed home in Manta.

But the prospect of another night in the streets grew more worrisome for many people after authorities announced that 180 prisoners from a jail near Portoviejo escaped amid the tumult after the quake.

The quake was about six times as strong as the most powerful of two deadly earthquakes on the other side the Pacific, in the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands. A magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck Thursday near Kumamoto, followed by a magnitude-7.0 earthquake just 28 hours later. Those quakes killed 41 people and injured about 1,500, flattening houses and triggering major landslides.

With files from The Associated Press

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