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story.lead_photo.caption A rescue worker searches in the rubble of a destroyed house in Pedernales, Ecuador, on Sunday, April 17, 2016. The strongest earthquake to hit Ecuador in decades flattened buildings and buckled highways along its Pacific coast and sent the Andean nation into a state of emergency. - Photo by The Associated Press

PEDERNALES, Ecuador — Rescuers pulled survivors from rubble Sunday after the strongest earthquake to hit Ecuador in decades flattened buildings and buckled highways along its Pacific coast.

Officials said the quake killed at least 235 people and injured 1,557 more.

The magnitude-7.8 quake, the strongest to hit Ecuador since 1979, was centered on Ecuador's sparsely populated fishing ports and tourist beaches, 105 miles northwest of Quito, the capital.

Vice President Jorge Glas said there were deaths in Manta, Portoviejo and Guayaquil — all several hundred miles from the center of the quake, which struck shortly after nightfall Saturday.

In Pedernales, a town of 40,000 near the quake's epicenter, dozens of frightened residents slept in the streets while men equipped with little more than car headlights tried to rescue survivors who could be heard trapped under the rubble.

"We hear screaming all through the night," resident Luis Quito said as he described the slow response by emergency workers. "There are humans trapped below the terrace. Babies. We need rescuers, but nobody has arrived so far."

Pedernales Mayor Gabriel Alcivar pleaded for authorities to send earth-moving machines and rescue workers to help find people in the rubble. He said looting had broken out amid the chaos, but authorities were too busy trying to save lives to re-establish order.

Glas said the country has deployed 10,000 armed forces and 4,600 national police to towns near the epicenter. More than 3,000 packages of food and nearly 8,000 sleeping kits were being delivered.

Ecuador's ally, Venezuela, pledged humanitarian aid, and neighboring Colombia, where the quake was also felt, said it stands ready to help in any way possible.

The European Union, Spain, Peru and Mexico have also pledged help, Glas said. The government is drawing on $600 million in emergency funding from multilateral banks to rebuild, President Rafael Correa said.

Read Monday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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