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Death toll rises to 272 after 7.8 quake hits Ecuador

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QUITO — The loss of life from the deadly earth quake in Ecuador has ascended to 272 however will rise further, President Rafael Correa said as he visited the debacle zone.

“Ecuador has been hit tremendously hard … This is the greatest tragedy in the last 67 years,” said a shaken Mr Correa, who rushed back to Ecuador from a visit to Italy.

“There are signs of life in much of the rubble and that is the priority,” he added in a televised address to the nation.

Rescuers were racing to dig out people trapped under the rubble of homes and businesses following the powerful magnitude-7.8 earthquake.

The quake reduced buildings to ruins, toppled power lines and sent terrified residents running from their homes when it struck the Pacific coast on Saturday in a zone popular with tourists.

Vice-President Jorge Glas called it the “worst seismic movement we have faced in decades”.

Officials quickly declared a state of emergency in the six worst-hit provinces.

The quake, felt across Ecuador, northern Peru and southern Colombia, struck at 6:58pm local time on Saturday, lasted for about a minute, and was centred approximately 170 kilometres north-west of the capital Quito.

No casualties were reported in Peru or Colombia.

Among the worst-hit towns was Pedernales, where about 40 hotels collapsed.

“Pedernales is devastated. Buildings have fallen down, especially hotels where there are lots of tourists staying. There are lots of dead bodies,” mayor Gabriel Alcivar told local media.

“We need help. We need medicine, water and food to help people.”

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About 200 aftershocks of lesser intensity followed the quake.

“You could hear people screaming from the rubble,” Agustin Robles said as he waited in a line of 40 people for water outside a stadium in Pedernales.

“There was a pharmacy where people were stuck and we couldn’t do anything.”

Agencies

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5 dead as gunman attacks churchgoers in Russia

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At least five people were killed and another five were injured when a gunman attacked a crowd of people leaving a church on Sunday in Russia’s southern province of Dagestan, Russian news agencies reported.

The attack occurred in the village of Kizlyar in the Muslim-majority republic of Dagestan.

Russian news agencies said the attack occurred as churchgoers celebrated Maslenitsa, a Christian holiday marking the last day before Lent according to the eastern Orthodox calendar.

CCTV footage from the site of the deadly shooting shows a man armed with a rifle gunning down two women in broad daylight.

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A bearded man clad in a black vest and camouflage pants was seen crossing the street before opening fire on two female churchgoers as they left a service in Kizlyar in the Republic of Dagestan on Sunday afternoon. A woman walking several meters from the attacker was seen rushing away as the bloodshed unfolded.

The attacker was identified as a 22-year-old man local to the region, the TASS news agency said, citing the investigative committee.

He was shot and killed by security services who were on duty nearby, TASS said, adding that a hunting rifle, bullets and a knife were discovered on his person.

Initial reports suggested all five victims were women, TASS said, citing the local branch of the interior ministry.

Agencies

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