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Death Toll Rises in Ecuador Quake, Recovery to Cost Billions

  • VOA Staff

Rescue workers recover a body from the rubble a bulldozer removes the debris of a collapsed building felled by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, in Manta, Ecuador, April 19, 2016.

Rescue workers recover a body from the rubble a bulldozer removes the debris of a collapsed building felled by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, in Manta, Ecuador, April 19, 2016.

Ecuador's president says rebuilding from Saturday's powerful earthquake that killed at least 440 people will cost billions of dollars.

Rafael Correa visited the northeastern town of Portoviejo Monday for a firsthand look at the devastation caused by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Portoviejo, along with the nearby cities of Manta and Pedernales, were among the worst affected, although damage was widespread throughout the country.

The government says it will draw down on $600 million in credit from several multinational lenders, including the World Bank, to finance its emergency response efforts. The economy of the small South American member of OPEC is mired in recession due to plunging prices on the global oil market.

The U.S. Agency for International Development announced Tuesday that it will deploy two teams to the site - one to assist the government by assessing damage and needs, and a second which will work with a U.N. team to coordinate international rescue activities. USAID has also pledged an initial contribution of $100,000 for critical supplies.

Worst natural disaster

The quake, Ecuador's worst natural disaster in more than half a century, injured more than 2,500 people and left thousands homeless. The death toll includes three Cuban doctors, a Catholic missionary nun from Northern Ireland, two Canadians and one U.S. national.

A man, whose wife and unborn son were killed during a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, recovers belongings from his collapsed home, in La Chorrera, Ecuador, April 18, 2016.

A man, whose wife and unborn son were killed during a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, recovers belongings from his collapsed home, in La Chorrera, Ecuador, April 18, 2016.

UNICEF reported Tuesday that the quake has affected at least 150,000 children, having damaged 119 schools.

"We are in a race against time to protect children from disease and other risks common in such emergencies," said UNICEF's reprasentative in Ecuador, Grant Leaity.

Survivors found

Search-and-rescue crews have launched a desperate effort to find survivors trapped in the rubble of buildings destroyed in the quake. Three people were pulled out alive from the rubble of a shopping center in Manta after being trapped for 32 hours.

Thousands of soldiers and police have been deployed throughout Ecuador to provide emergency relief, including temporary shelters and food. In addition, scores of aid workers from dozens of nations, including Spain, Peru, Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela, have arrived to assist in the relief efforts, and the United Nations said it is preparing to airlift tons of emergency supplies.

WATCH: Video footage from Ecuador

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