Update: Ecuador Earthquake Death Toll Rises To Nearly 650

Photo: Dolores Ochoa/AP Images.
Update: The death count in the Ecuador earthquake has risen to almost 650, one week after the country was hit by the natural disaster.
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In his regular Saturday TV broadcast on April 23, President Rafael Correa said that the death toll has risen to 646 in the aftermath of the quake, The Guardian reports. More than 130 others are still missing. "These have been sad days for the homeland," Correa said.

More than 26,000 people are living in shelters after the 7.8-magnitude quake destroyed buildings and highways along the Ecuadorian coast. Impassable roads have made it difficult for rescue workers to help those affected.

A week after the earthquake, rebuilding costs are being estimated at 2 to 3 billion dollars and the government has announced plans to implement a number of short-term or one-off tax measures in order to fund reconstruction efforts. CNN reports that the government plans to institute a temporary sales tax increase for the span of one year, as well as sell off governmental assets. In the meantime, the nation’s private banking association will defer payments on credit, loans, and mortgages for clients affected by the quake for three months to allow for reconstruction efforts, according to The Guardian.

This story was originally published on April 17, 2016.

A magnitude-7.8 earthquake shook Ecuador on Saturday night, claiming an estimated 233 lives and injuring 1,500, according to CNN. The country has declared a state of emergency, the worst for Ecuador since 1987, when 1,000 people were killed.

The earthquake's epicenter was located 16 miles south of the coastal town of Muisne, but its effects reached the country's most populous city, Guayaquil, 300 miles away, and capital, Quito, 100 miles away.

Buildings and highways were reportedly flattened along the coast. Landslides have made it difficult for rescue workers to reach the most devastated towns. In Pedernales, a town with a population of 40,000, Mayor Gabriel Alcivar told the Associated Press that dozens of buildings had been destroyed and looting was already a problem.
Ecuadorians have been sharing videos of their experiences during the earthquake, which struck at 7 p.m. local time, when many were out shopping.
Since the initial quake, there have been an estimated 135 aftershocks. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reports there is no threat of a tsunami. This disaster occurred in the same week that two earthquakes hit Japan's Kyushu region, killing 41 people.
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