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Ecuador earthquake toll crosses 400

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QUITO — The Ecuadorian Government has raised the loss of life from its worst earthquake in decades to 413, as rescuers struggle to pull survivors from the piles of debris.

The magnitude 7.8 quake struck the South American country late on Saturday, shattering hotels and homes along its Pacific coast popular with tourists and reducing several towns to rubble.

More than 2,000 people were injured as buildings  tumbled during the quake or its dozens of aftershocks.

The capital Quito, further inland, escaped with cracked walls and power outages, and the country’s strategic oil facilities appeared unscathed, officials said.

But along the coast, the devastation prompted neighbouring Colombia, as well as quake-experienced Mexico and El Salvador, to rush in rescue personnel to help out.

Touring the city of Portoviejo, ravaged by the earthquake, the visibly moved and grim-faced Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said the cost of rebuilding would reach into the billions of dollars and the impact on the country’s fragile economy “could be huge”.

But the traumatised survivors Mr Correa met on his rounds had more immediate concerns. Many asked him for water.

Mr Correa made reference to the August 1949 earthquake near the central Ecuadoran city of Ambato that killed some 5,000 people and caused widespread destruction.

Reuters/AFP

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Nirmala Panta rape, murder case : Locals protest after wrong suspect paraded

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BHIMDUTTANAGAR — Locals who were protesting against the rape and murder of Nirmala Panta of Kanchanpur’s Bhimdatta Municipality, have enforced shutdown in Bhimduttanagar Bazaar on Tuesday, protesting police’s failure to reveal facts behind the murder of 13-year-old girl and parading wrong suspect on Monday.

The District Police Office, organising a press conference on Monday,had made public Dilip Singh Bista (41), of Baghphanta, Bhimdatta Municipality-19 as Nirmala’s murderer.

Locals have shut down the market area stating that police were not being able to make public the true murderer(s) as they are not convinced by the findings of police citing that Bista was mentally unsound, according to the District Police Office.

Transportation has also been halted.

Bista, a resident of Khanna Chauraha area in Bhimdutta Municipality-19, was apprehended near the scene of crime on Sunday, according to police.

Police making public the wrong suspect has infuriated the locals and fueled the protest.

The agitators including various civil society organisations and human rights defenders have been picketing the District Administration Office and staging rally on the street mounting pressure on the police to reveal the facts behind the heinous crime.

Meanwhile, it had been learnt that police have fired rounds of teargas shells to contain the agitated mob.

Nirmala was found murdered in a sugarcane field on July 27, a day after she had gone to her friend’s home to get a notebook.

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