Ecuador quake death toll rises to 507

MANTA, Ecuador -- Ecuadorean authorities’ said the death toll from the magnitude 7.8 earthquake on April 16, has risen to 507.

The Attorney General's Office said 499 of the dead have been identified so far and returned to loved ones.

It said 11 foreigners were among those killed.

Guillaume Long, Ecuador Foreign Affairs Minister, told state-run Gamavision that a citizen of Great Britain, two Canadians, three Cubans, two Colombians and a person from the Dominican Republic are on the official list of those reported dead.

He did not count an American citizen who the State Department said Monday was also killed and another national.

Long said the list of foreigners is likely to rise because the epicenter of the massive quake is an area of laid-back, pristine beaches popular with foreign tourists and expats.

Deputy Interior Minister Diego Fuentes said that 2,000 people had been reported as missing to a government registry created to track casualties. But it's not clear if all of those people remain unaccounted for.

Earlier Tuesday, Ecuador's Defense Ministry said 231 people were missing.

Another 4,027 people are reported injured.

Long said more international rescuers are heading to the country's disaster zone of flattened buildings to help in the race against time to find survivors.

Long tweeted that 654 search experts from other nations were on the ground late Monday and that more were expected to arrive Tuesday — bringing to 13 the nationalities involved in the rescue.

Complicating rescue efforts is the lack of electricity in many areas, meaning noisy power generators must be used, making it harder to hear people who might be trapped beneath rubble.

Spain's Red Cross said as many as 5,000 people might need temporary housing because of destroyed homes and 100,000 need some sort of aid.

The U.S. is deploying disaster experts to Ecuador and sending $100,000 in supplies as the country grapples with tens of thousands of people displaced by Saturday's earthquake.

The U.S. Agency for International Development announced Tuesday that it was joining the effort to help survivors. Teams from Mexico, Switzerland, Colombia, Venezuela and other countries are already in place.

The agency said U.S. workers will help analyze the situation on the ground and work to meet humanitarian needs.

President Barack Obama said the United States will do everything it can to support Ecuador.

Obama spoke by phone with Ecuador's President Rafael Correa on Tuesday. The White House said Obama offered condolences on behalf of the American people for lives lost and that the two leaders discussed U.S. government assistance to support earthquake victims.

The White House said that Correa thanked Americans for helping during the difficult recovery period.

Obama called the Ecuadorian leader shortly before departing on a trip to Saudi Arabia and Europe.

While the human tragedy of Ecuador's most-powerful earthquake in decades is still sinking in, the government is just beginning to evaluate the monumental task of rebuilding.

Correa said it could cost as much as $3 billion to rebuild. That's about 3 percent of Ecuador's gross domestic product.

He told reporters Tuesday: "It's going to be a long battle."

The problem is Ecuador doesn't have the extra money. Prices for its commodities have been falling of late on lower demand from China.

Ecuador's growth last year was stagnant. And even before the earthquake, the International Monetary Fund was forecasting its economy would shrink by around 4.5 percent in 2016. Oil is Ecuador's largest export and cover 35 percent of the government budget. (AP)

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