Ecuador has begun burying people killed by the country's deadliest earthquake in decades, as hopes fade that any more survivors will be found. The government has put the death toll at 525, with more than 200 people still missing following the 7.8-magnitude earthquake. Most of the dead were in the Manta, Portoviejo and Pedernales areas.

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Aerial view of Pedernales, one of Ecuador's worst-hit townsPablo Cozzaglio/AFP
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Collapsed buildings in PortoviejoJuan Cevallos/AFP
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Two earthquakes have struck in the area in a matter of daysHenry Romero/Reuters
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A body is carried out of a collapsed building in PedernalesHenry Romero/Reuters

Officials expect more bodies to be found. The final toll could surpass combined casualties from earthquakes in Chile and Peru in the past decade. Among the dead were at least 11 foreigners, including an American and two Canadians.

Scenes of mourning multiplied all along Ecuador's normally placid Pacific coastline, where the tremor flattened towns and killed hundreds. Funeral homes are running out of coffins to accommodate so many casualties.

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A woman looks at a pile of empty coffins at Maximino Puertas stadium in PedernalesHenry Romero/Reuters
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Rescue team members carry the body of a victim on a truck in PedernalesHenry Romero/Reuters
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Rescuers remove a corpse from the rubble in MantaLuis Acosta/AFP

The earthquake destroyed or damaged about 1,500 buildings, triggered mudslides and left some 20,000 people homeless, the government said. It was the worst tremor in Ecuador since one in 1949 killed more than 5,000 people.

A fresh tremor rattled Ecuador overnight, a 6.1 magnitude jolt that was the strongest aftershock since the lethal earthquake. There was no immediate report of further damage. The US Geological Survey said the tremor was centred offshore, 25 kms west of Muisne, at 3:33 a.m. local time. The previous strongest aftershock was magnitude 5.7.

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A woman inspects the damage to her home in PedernalesHenry Romero/Reuters
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A woman sits in a provisonal shelter on a hill on the outskirts of JamaGuillermo Granja/Reuters
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A resident collects belongings from an earthquake-damaged house in house in JamaGuillermo Granja/Reuters
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A collapsed building is seen in the town of CanoaHenry Romero/Reuters
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Members of a family wait for food aid in MantaLuis Acosta/AFP
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Aerial view of PedernalesPablo Cozzaglio/AFP
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Aerial view of PedernalesPablo Cozzaglio/AFP
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Aerial view of PedernalesPablo Cozzaglio/AFP
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Aerial view of PedernalesPablo Cozzaglio/AFP
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An injured woman recovers at a shelter hopital in MantaLuis Acosta/AFP
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Rescuers work to search for earthquake victims amidst the rubble in MantaLuis Acosta/AFP

Rescuers with sniffer dogs, hydraulic jacks and special probes that can detect breathing from far away continue to search for survivors in the rubble. At least six were found in Manta on Tuesday (19 April).

One of the most hopeful tales was that of Pablo Cordova, who held out for 36 hours beneath the rubble of the hotel where he worked in Portoviejo, drinking his own urine and praying that mobile phone service would be restored before his phone battery died. He was finally able to call his wife on Monday afternoon and was pulled from the wreckage by a team of rescuers from Colombia. His wife had given up hope of ever seeing him again and had bought a coffin.

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Rescue workers search the rubble in Pedernales for survivors or bodiesRodrigo Buendia/AFP
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Members of the emergency services search for bodies in PedernalesRodrigo Buendia/AFP
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Rescue workers use a digger to excavate rubble in PedernalesRodrigo Buendia/AFP
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Rescuers search for victims buried under the rubble in PedernalesRodrigo Buendia/AFP
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Rescuers search for victims buried under the rubble in PedernalesRodrigo Buendia/AFP
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Rescue workers use a sledgehammer to investigate the rubble of a collapsed building in PedernalesRodrigo Buendia/AFP
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Injured people are transported on a military plane in MantaLuis Acosta/AFP
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Soldiers transfer an injured person onto a military plane in MantaLuis Acosta/AFP

Rescue workers, who have arrived from Mexico, Colombia, Spain and other nations, said they would keep searching for survivors, but cautioned that time was running out and the likelihood of finding more people alive grew smaller with the passage of every hour.