Shaken Ecuador hunts for survivors amid 7.8 quake debris

Updated: 2016-04-18 13:44


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Shaken Ecuador hunts for survivors amid 7.8 quake debris

Residents rest on a sidewalk after an earthquake struck off the Pacific coast, in Portoviejo, Ecuador, April 17, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

Leftist President Rafael Correa, who cut short a visit to Italy, surveyed the damage in the coastal province of Manabi on Sunday night.

"Ecuador has been hit tremendously hard," Correa said in a televised address, his voice breaking as he said he feared the death toll would rise from what he called a tragedy.

While the full extent of the damage remains unclear, the disaster will likely worsen the OPEC nation's economic performance this year.

The small, oil-dependent country has already been battered by the tumble in crude prices.

Its crucial energy industry appears largely intact after the quake, though its main refinery of Esmeraldas was closed as a precaution. However, exports of bananas, flowers, cacao, and fish could be slowed by ruined roads and delays at ports.

The quake could also alter political dynamics ahead of next year's presidential election.