One day after a massive earthquake in Ecuador which killed 272 people, the Chabad emissary to Guayaquil spoke about the damage.
"The quake occurred Saturday night, toward the end of the Ma'ariv prayer," Rabbi Uriel Tawil began, in an interview with haredi news outlet Hamevaser. "Suddenly, everything was shaking – and we were shocked, we didn't know what might happen."
"We left the building, gathered the children, and sat on a grass area in the courtyard, where we gather during an emergency," Tawil continued. "We started to recite Tehilim (Psalms), and the children were crying in panic."
"It lasted about two minutes," he added. The average earthquake lasts between 30-40 seconds.
"Everything came crashing down," he continued. "Surveillance footage from inside the synagogue shows that after we went outside, all of the books fell off their shelves; everything was on the floor."
Rabbi Tawil then spoke about the aftermath.
"The situation now is of panic and fear among residents in the streets," he said. "Many buildings have collapsed and [there is] a lot of damaged infrastructure – and, unfortunately, we know that there are 230 dead as of now and there may be a lot more casualties."
He added, however, that as far as he knew, none of the Ecuadorian Jewish community members had been killed – nor the 200+ Israeli tourists currently in Ecuador.
Despite this, "we are trying to help as much as possible," he stressed.
He said as well that many tourists have turned to Chabad for help, as transportation and roads have been shuttered since the quake.
"The city actually has been besieged for many hours, there is no going in or out," he said. "The situation is chaos here – collapsed bridges, collapsed ceilings."
"The situation is really bad – no country is prepared for such an event," he added. "There are areas that remain inaccessible and have no electricity and no communication."
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake was centered some 16 miles south of Muisne, thinly-populated area dominated by fishing ports.
The US Geological Survey recorded at least 36 aftershocks, including some as powerful as 6.0 magnitude.