The Israeli disaster relief group IsraAID set up a field hospital in the earthquake-hit Ecuadorean village of Canoa, and began operating it on Saturday evening, the group said.
IsraAID’s team will focus on immediate care, mainly emergency medical treatment, child friendly spaces and psycho-social care, IsraAID in a statement.
The team arrived in the country several days ago, and used private planes to reach the affected region, since much of the land infrastructure in the area has been destroyed, the group said.
The death count from the earthquake, the worst Ecuador has seen in a decade, rose to at least 602 on Friday, and the country now also faces a long and costly reconstruction effort likely to cost billions of dollars.
President Rafael Correa announced Wednesday night that he would raise sales taxes and put a one-time levy on millionaires to help pay for reconstruction.
The damage from the 7.8-magnitude quake adds to already heavy economic hardships being felt in this OPEC nation because of the collapse in world oil prices. Even before the quake, Ecuador was bracing for a bout of austerity, with the International Monetary Fund forecasting the economy would shrink 4.5 percent this year.
In a televised address Wednesday night, Correa warned the nation of a long and costly post-quake recovery and said the economic pain shouldn’t fall only on hard-hit communities along the coast.
“I know we’re at the most-difficult stage right now but it’s just the beginning,” he said.
Rescuers continued to comb through the rubble in coastal towns hit hardest by the quake, but the clock was running down for finding survivors. Rescue workers have said a person without serious injuries can survive up to a week buried in debris in the Ecuadorian heat.
Over the weekend, Ecuadoreans slept outside and struggled to find food and water in the wake of aftershocks that are still rocking coastal towns.
The quake destroyed virtually all of the simple one- and two-story buildings making up the beach town of Canoa last Saturday. Residents sleeping in makeshift shelters said they were praying that it didn’t rain.
A magnitude-6.0 aftershock struck off the coast late Thursday, followed by more shaking that sent people running from the structures left half-standing after the initial quake. Local television stations showed people crying in fear.
In Canoa, 98 percent of buildings were destroyed during the original magnitude-7.8 quake, army Col. Jose Nunez said.
Aid workers have said there are plenty of supplies arriving from abroad. Eighty-six metric tons of relief items from UNICEF landed in Quito on Thursday night, including 10,000 fleece blankets, 300 plastic tarps, large tents and insecticide-treated nets, among other things.
But the relief workers warned of delays in water distribution and said mosquito-borne illness could spread through the camps.