The Latest: 10,000 armed forces sent into Ecuador quake zone 
People stand on the debris of a building after an earthquake struck off the Pacific coast in Manta
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QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — The Latest on the earthquake in Ecuador. (all times local):

3:25 a.m.

Ecuador’s Risk Management agency says 10,000 armed forces have now been deployed to help people in the coastal area stuck by a magnitude-7.8 earthquake.

The quake was centered on a sparsely populated area of fishing ports and tourist beaches, 170 kilometers (105 miles) northwest of Quito, the capital.

In addition, the agency says 3,500 national police have been sent to the towns of Manabí, Esmeraldas and Guayas y Santa Elena, and 500 firefighters have been sent to Manabi and Pedernales. Five shelters have been set up for those evacuated from their homes.

Officials say the quake, which struck Saturday night, has killed at least 77 people and injured over 570.

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2:45 a.m.

Top officials say Ecuador is in a state of emergency and hundreds of rescue workers are rushing in after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck near its Pacific coast.

The Security Ministry says on its Twitter account that “every emergency protocol has been activated” and President Rafeal Correa says special quake rescue teams are coming in from Colombia and Mexico.

The Red Cross Ecuador says more than 1,200 volunteers are already working in rescue, evacuation and first aid operations.

Vice President Jorge Glas says mobile phone operators are allowing free text services in the hard-hit Manabi and Esmeraldas provinces, allowing people to better reach their loved ones or report emergency situations.

He says the Saturday quake has already killed 77 people and injured at least 578.

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2:20 a.m.

Ecuador’s vice president says the toll in the country’s devastating earthquake has risen to 77 dead and 578 injured.

Vice President Jorge Glas made the announcement early Sunday on the Security Ministry’s Twitter account.

Glas and emergency rescue workers are pressing to reach the sparsely populated area of fishing ports and tourist beaches along the country’s Pacific coast where the magnitude-7.8 quake struck after nightfall on Saturday.

President Rafael Correa has signed a decree declaring a national emergency and is rushing home from Rome.

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1:30 a.m.

The strongest earthquake to hit Ecuador in decades has flattened buildings and buckled highways along the country’s Pacific coast, killing at least 41 people and causing damage in the capital and other major cities that were hundreds of miles (kilometers) away from the epicenter.

The death toll is expected to rise Sunday as rescuers reached the sparsely populated area of fishing ports and tourist beaches where the magnitude-7.8 quake was centered.

“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. He pleaded for authorities to send earth-moving machines and emergency rescue workers as dozens of buildings in the town were flattened, trapping residents among the rubble.

“This wasn’t just a house that collapsed, it was an entire town,” he said.

Vice President Jorge Glas said in a televised address late Saturday there were initial reports of 41 dead in the cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Guayaquil — all several hundred kilometers (miles) from where the quake struck shortly after nightfall Saturday.

President Rafael Correa signed a decree declaring a national emergency and was rushing home from Rome.

The quake was the strongest to hit Ecuador since 1979, Glas said.

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