Ecuador launched rescue operations on Sunday after its biggest earthquake in decades killed at least 77 people, caused devastation in coastal populations and left an unknown number trapped in ruins. The 7.8 magnitude quake struck off Ecuador’s Pacific coast on Saturday night and was felt around the Andean nation of 16 million people, causing panic in the capital, Quito, and collapsing buildings in the large commercial city of Guayaquil. Nearly 600 people were injured.

Northwestern coastal areas nearest the quake were worst affected, including Pedernales, a tourist spot with beaches and palm trees, and nearby Cojimies. But information was scant from there due to poor communications and transport chaos. “There are people trapped in various places, and we are starting rescue operations,” Vice President Jorge Glas said on Sunday morning before boarding a plane to the area. FULL REPORT