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Death toll from Ecuador earthquake at 646

At least 12,500 people were injured in last week’s quake and another 130 are still unaccounted for.

Rescue workers work to pull out survivors trapped in a collapsed building after a huge earthquake struck, in the city of Manta early after a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador on 17 April 2016. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Ecuador's President Rafael Correa says the death toll from the country's 7.8 magnitude earthquake now stands at 646.

At least 12,500 people were injured in last week's quake and another 130 are still unaccounted for.

Authorities say nearly 7,000 buildings have been destroyed and 26,000 people have been displaced.

The earthquake has been described as the worst tragedy to hit the country in decades.

Several strong tremors and more than 700 aftershocks have continued to shake the country since the major quake, sparking momentary panic but little additional damage. Tremors are expected to continue for several weeks.

Survivors in the quake zone were receiving food, water and medicine from the government and scores of foreign aid workers, although Correa has acknowledged that bad roads delayed aid reaching some communities.

Correa's leftist government, facing mammoth rebuilding at a time of greatly reduced oil revenues for the OPEC country, has said it would temporarily increase some taxes, offer assets for sale and possibly issue bonds abroad to fund reconstruction. Congress will begin debate on the tax proposal on Tuesday.

Correa has estimated damage at $2 billion to $3 billion. Lower oil revenue has already left the country of 16 million people facing near-zero growth and lower investment.

The country's private banking association said on Saturday its member banks would defer payments on credit cards, loans and mortgages for clients in the quake zone for three months, to help reconstruction efforts.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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