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    Apr 18, 2016

    Ecuador's 7.8-strong earthquake kills 77

    QUITO, Ecuador

    AT LEAST 77 people were killed when a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador, destroying buildings and sending terrified residents dashing from their homes, the South American country said yesterday.

    The quake, which struck at about 7pm local time on Saturday, was centred on the Manabi province, about 170km west-northwest of the capital Quito, Bloomberg reported.

    The quake lasted about a minute and was felt across Ecuador, northern Peru and southern Colombia.

    Vice-President Jorge Glas said the death toll will likely rise further in what he called the "worst seismic movement we have faced in decades", Agence France-Presse reported.

    A state of emergency was declared in the six worst-hit provinces.

    In the Pacific port city of Guayaquil, home to more than two million people, a bridge collapsed, crushing a car beneath it, and residents were picking through the wreckage of houses reduced to heaps of rubble and timber, an AFP photographer reported.

    Ecuador's Geophysical Office reported "considerable" structural damage "in the area near the epicentre as well as places as far away as Guayaquil".

    Ecuador has suffered seven earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or higher in the region of Saturday's quake since 1900, the United States Geological Survey said.

    One in March 1987 killed about 1,000 people, it added.

    Saturday's tremor knocked out electricity in parts of Quito.

    In the north of the city, people ran out of their homes in terror, as power lines swayed back and forth and cables danced.

    Meanwhile, in southern Japan's Kyushu island, rescue teams scoured the splintered remains of buildings in Kumamoto province destroyed by two deadly earthquakes since Thursday, Reuters reported.

    The 7.3 magnitude tremor that struck early on Saturday morning killed at least 32 people, injured about a thousand more and caused widespread damage to houses, roads and bridges.

    The quake followed an earlier one on Thursday which killed nine people.

    More than 440 tremors have rocked the area since Thursday, said broadcaster NHK.

    All commercial flights to the damaged Kumamoto airport were cancelled and Japan's bullet train service to the region was suspended.

    Expressways were closed in many areas because of landslides and cracks in the road surface, hindering supplies of water and food reaching survivors.

    Around 62,700 households were without electricity, water supplies had been disrupted to more than 300,000 homes and some areas had no gas, said NHK.

    More than 110,000 people had been evacuated from the Kumamoto area, said the Kyodo news agency.

    Both Japan and Ecuador are on the seismically active "ring of fire" around the Pacific Ocean.