A magnitude of 7.8 struck the central coast of Ecuador on Sunday, April 17, killing around 246 and injuring more than 2,500. Rescuers pulled survivors from the rubble after the earthquake hit the nation.

The most devastated area was the Manabi Province where at least 200 people died, said Ecuador National Emergency Office spokesperson Ricardo Peñaherrera. A state of emergency has been declared in six provinces: Guayas, Manabi, Santo Domingo, Los Rios, Esmeraldas, and Galapagos. Hydroelectric dams and oil pipelines have been shut down as a protective measure, Sky News reported.

President Rafael Correa urged the people to stay strong while authorities handle the situation, reported Independent. He has cut short his visit to the Vatican because of the calamity. “Everything can be rebuilt, but what can’t be rebuilt are human lives, and that’s the most painful,” he said.

According to the US Geological Survey, the quake was the strongest to hit the country since 1979. The epicentre was in the southeast of Muisne which is a popular tourist destination and a fishing port. The USGS also stated that the quake was equivalent to the quake in 1906 that turned San Francisco to rubble.

The authorities have deployed 10,000 soldiers and 4,600 police officers and the armed forces have built mobile hospitals in Pedernales and Portoviejo. Temporary shelters are also being arranged. K9 units are used to boost the search for survivors.

“The lack of water and communication remains a big problem. Many highways are in bad shape, especially in the mountainous area because it has been raining recently due to (the) El Niño weather phenomenon,” Peñaherrera told CNN.

Professor of Planetary Geosciences at The Open University David Rothery said that the quake was “six times stronger than in the magnitude 7.0 earthquake in southern Japan just over a day before. The total energy involved was probably about 20 times greater.”

He also said that “The greater damage to buildings and the probable greater loss of life in Ecuador may reflect poorer adherence to seismic building codes in the construction of buildings and bridges.”

A week ago, South Asia was rocked by an earthquake and the tremor was felt in Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan.