President Rafael Correa also declared a state of emergency after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit near Muisne Saturday. Vice President Jorge Glas said the military has been sent to affected areas.
The death toll from a powerful earthquake that shook Ecuador's northwestern coast soared to 272 on Sunday, and hundreds more pepole were wounded, the office of the nation's president said.
Ecuador was in a state of emergency Sunday after the magnitude-7.8 earthquake flattened buildings and ravaged towns just before 7 p.m. (8 p.m. ET) Saturday.
"Thank you to the whole world for solidarity," President Rafael Correa, who cut short a trip to Italy to return home, said on Twitter. "Our infinite love to the families of the dead."
Correa, who toured the coastal city of Manta to get a firsthand look at the damage Sunday, said later: "The immediate priority is to rescue people in the rubble. Everything can be rebuilt, but lives cannot be recovered, and that's what hurts the most."
More than 2,500 people were injured, the government said. At least 370 buildings were destroyed, and 151 more buildings and 26 schools were affected.
Correa said the temblor was the strongest quake to hit Ecuador since 1979. He said some areas had lost power and warned people to be careful to avoid fallen debris and poles.
States of emergency were declared for the provinces of Esmeraldas, Los Rios, Manabi, Santa Elena, Guayas and Santo Domingo. The quake was strongly felt in country's capital, Quito, about around 100 miles away.
Vice President Jorge Glas said that 10,000 military troops and 3,500 police officers were dispatched to the affected areas and that $600 million in credit was allotted to the emergency. Meanwhile, the Home Ministry said five helicopters and more than 80 buses ferried 4,000 police to the quake zone.
By Sunday night, the government was calling on an additional 2,000 officers to help "reinforce security" in the region, the country's vice minister of internal security, Diego Fuentes Acosta, said at a news conference. He added that the government was at "100 percent of its operational capacity" there.
More than 1,200 Red Cross volunteers were also helping to render first aid and search for an unspecified number of missing people. Glas said. However, the heavy machinery couldn't be used in rescues because such equipment could put wounded people at greater risk. He pleaded with people who flooded into the streets, in the absence of shelter, to "be quiet so rescuers can listen for survivors."#EcuadorQuake Rescue crews and RedCross paramedics are heading to more remote areas where severe damage was reported pic.twitter.com/4hXnF6Tm5U— CRUZ ROJA ECUADOR (@cruzrojaecuador) April 17, 2016
Vanessa Santos said authorities were telling her that her entire family was buried. "I need to find my baby," she said. "It's been five hours since she disappeared."
Authorities said landslides, crumbling bridges and roads were making it difficult for emergency workers to reach the hardest-hit towns.
"We're trying to do the most we can, but there's almost nothing we can do," said Gabriel Alcivar, mayor of Pedernales, a town of 40,000 near the quake's epicenter, according to The Associated Press.