QUITO, Ecuador – The Latest on the earthquake in Ecuador. (all times local):
Ecuador's vice president says the toll in the country's devastating earthquake has risen to 77 dead and 578 injured.
Vice President Jorge Glas made the announcement early Sunday on the Security Ministry's Twitter account.
Glas and emergency rescue workers are pressing to reach the sparsely populated area of fishing ports and tourist beaches along the country's Pacific coast where the magnitude-7.8 quake struck after nightfall on Saturday.
President Rafael Correa has signed a decree declaring a national emergency and is rushing home from Rome.
The strongest earthquake to hit Ecuador in decades has flattened buildings and buckled highways along the country's Pacific coast, killing at least 41 people and causing damage in the capital and other major cities that were hundreds of miles (kilometers) away from the epicenter.
The death toll is expected to rise Sunday as rescuers reached the sparsely populated area of fishing ports and tourist beaches where the magnitude-7.8 quake was centered.
"We're trying to do the most we can but there's almost nothing we can do," said Gabriel Alcivar, mayor of Pedernales, a town of 40,000 near the quake's epicenter. He pleaded for authorities to send earth-moving machines and emergency rescue workers as dozens of buildings in the town were flattened, trapping residents among the rubble.
"This wasn't just a house that collapsed, it was an entire town," he said.
Vice President Jorge Glas said in a televised address late Saturday there were initial reports of 41 dead in the cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Guayaquil — all several hundred kilometers (miles) from where the quake struck shortly after nightfall Saturday.
President Rafael Correa signed a decree declaring a national emergency and was rushing home from Rome.
The quake was the strongest to hit Ecuador since 1979, Glas said.