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Beach Towns Hardest Hit In Ecuador's Weekend Earthquake


We do not have a firm count yet for the number of people killed in the weekend's earthquake in Ecuador. But the government says it is now well over 400. That number, the death toll, is expected to grow. Let's turn now to reporter Julia Symmes Cobb. She is in Pedernales. It's a rustic beach town along the Ecuadorian coast that was one of the hardest hit communities in the country. Julia, good morning to you.


GREENE: Can you just describe to us what you've been seeing in this city?

COBB: Well, 80 percent of buildings here in Pedernales were damaged somehow by the quake. So many people have lost their homes, lost their businesses, lost any worldly possessions. So a lot of people have been made homeless. And people were sleeping on the streets on mattresses or in hammocks, whatever they could sort of rig up. The open spaces in the town, like the central square, had dozens of people sleeping in it. People are afraid to be in buildings. And also, they are afraid of another quake. So many people were restless, wandering the streets at night. There's obviously a great need for food and water, as well as medical supplies.

GREENE: And are rescue workers still finding people who survived this in the rubble somewhere?

COBB: There have been some rescues of living victims here in Pedernales. But most the rescues now are pulling out remains from the wreckage.

GREENE: You know, I was reading one of your stories. I mean, just this image of desperate family members putting pressure on rescue workers to keep trying to find people. I mean, it just sounded so sad.

COBB: Yeah, it's really sad. I was following one family who I had spoken to over the course of several days. And they had a lot of hope. At first, they were looking for a 15-year-old nephew of theirs called Hidoh (ph), who was at work in a corner store. And they had hoped and hoped and hoped that he was still alive somehow and were standing there all night on Sunday with firefighters who were calling out and climbing around in the rubble, trying to see if they could hear anything. And then I saw them again yesterday. And they were waiting for the body. It's basically been confirmed to them that there was no one alive in those ruins. So there are lots of families, unfortunately, who are suffering like that here.

GREENE: And this country, Julia, I mean, it sounds like it's an economy that has been struggling because of falling oil prices. I mean, and it's a pretty poor country. How hard is it going to be to rebuild for Ecuador?

COBB: Well, President Rafael Correa has said that it's going to take billions and billions of dollars and that really this initial disaster relief effort is just the tip of the iceberg. Again, when so many buildings and towns like this are damaged, it'll be a lot of money. And obviously, it's sort of adding insult to injury for Ecuador because they've had a terrible economic year so far, with oil prices being as low as they are.

GREENE: We've been speaking to reporter Julia Symmes Cobb. She joined us from the coastal city of Pedernales in Ecuador that was heavily damaged by the earthquake over the weekend. Julia, thanks very much.

COBB: Thanks very much, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.