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Ecuador Quake Death Toll 18; More Feared Buried

March 08, 1987|From Times Wire Services

QUITO, Ecuador — Rescue workers digging through mud found 10 bodies Saturday in a bus buried under a landslide, bringing to 18 the death toll in an earthquake that shook Ecuador on Thursday, officials said.

Health Minister Jorge Bracho told reporters the bodies were found in the village of Reventador, 55 miles east of the capital, near the epicenter of the quake.

The quake, registering 6 on the Richter scale, also killed eight other people in four towns in northeastern Ecuador, he said.

Most died when their adobe huts collapsed, Bracho said, but the true death toll might never be known because others might be buried under the rubble of homes.

Police and civil defense workers said damage was heaviest in a four-state region surrounding and to the north of Quito, extending to the Colombian border.

The tremor paralyzed oil production and exports because it damaged about 25 miles of Ecuador's main pipeline linking Amazon basin oil fields to the Pacific coast, Energy and Mines Minister Javier Espinosa said.

Oil is Ecuador's main source of income, accounting for up to 70% of government revenues.

Espinosa on Friday announced austerity measures which included a 30% reduction in domestic fuel sales to conserve energy.

Ecuador, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has recently been pumping about 260,000 barrels per day.

Deputy Energy Minister Fernando Santos Alvite told a local television station that it could take months to repair the pipeline and possibly cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

He said Ecuador might try to ship its oil via a pipeline in northern Colombia in the interim.

Ecuador is still reeling from a financial crisis sparked by a dramatic drop in world oil prices last year.

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