Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has warned that the death toll from a powerful earthquake which has killed 272 people is likely to rise.
There were desperate scenes as rescuers and family members searched for survivors, often with bare hands.
Mr Correa said there was evidence that people were still alive under the rubble of collapsed buildings.
More than 2,000 were injured in the quake, Ecuador’s most powerful in decades.
President Correa visited some of the people affected by the disaster after cutting short a visit to Italy.
“I fear that figure will go up because we keep on removing rubble,” a shaken Mr Correa said in a televised address. “There are signs of life in the rubble, and that is being prioritised.”
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The magnitude-7.8 quake struck on Saturday evening. Coastal areas in the north-west were closest to the epicentre.
A state of emergency has been declared and some 10,000 troops and 3,500 police have been deployed in the affected areas.
In Pedernales, close to the epicentre, as many as 400 people are feared dead. Mayor Gabriel Alcivar said the “entire town” had been flattened.
“Pedernales is devastated. Buildings have fallen down, especially hotels where there are lots of tourists staying. There are lots of dead bodies,” he told local media.
“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 Portoviejo, a city of 300,000, 15km (10 miles) from the coast, rescuers rushed to search the debris of flattened buildings for survivors.
“We have already recovered three dead and we believe there are 10 to 11 people still trapped,” a rescue worker, who was digging through the debris of a six-story hotel, told the AFP news agency.
Four members of the same family were killed when a building collapsed on their car, the Associated Press reported. The Quinde family had travelled to the city, where 17-year-old daughter Sayira was due to start university next week.
Elsewhere in Portoviejo, the vibrations reduced part of the city’s prison to rubble, allowing 100 inmates to escape. Some were recaptured but other remained on the run, Justice Minister Ledy Zuniga said on Twitter.
The quake cut power supplies along the coast. With too few emergency shelters, many residents have spent two nights out in the open.
In Portoviejo, where looting was reported, about 400 residents gathered at the city’s former airport to queue for water and other supplies.
The quake is Ecuador’s largest since 1979. More than 130 aftershocks have followed.
The US Geological Survey said the earthquake struck at a fairly shallow depth of 19.2km (11.9 miles), about 27km from Muisne in a sparsely populated area.
The quake was also felt in neighbouring Colombia.
Scientists say there is no connection between the quake in Ecuador and a severe tremor in southern Japan, which also occurred on Saturday.
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