A Napier man's anxious wait to hear from his wife and baby boy in Ecuador ended about 3am today.

Josh Power's 10-month-old son Franky and his wife Mayra Salazar Roman live rurally, near the city of Milagro - and the man feared for their lives after the South American nation was hit by an earthquake that has so far killed at least 235 people.

Milagro is several hundred kilometres from the epicentre of the magnitude-7.8 quake, which struck shortly after nightfall in Ecuador (about midday yesterday New Zealand time).

Mr Power told Fairfax yesterday that he usually spoke to his wife via Facebook, but the pair had not been in touch since the quake struck.

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He was anxious, as he had lost her cellphone number when he damaged his own phone, so was unable to call her.

He said in the area where she lived buildings were often badly constructed of fragile bricks overlaid with plaster, but the home in which Mr Power's wife and son lived was one storey, so he hoped they would have escaped safely.

"I had received news about 3 in the morning," he told the Herald today.

"She contacted me to say she's safe and well. My son was crying in fright by the massive jolt they felt," Mr Power said.

Fairfax reported Mr Power met his wife online, and had lived in Ecuador, but returned to New Zealand to save enough money to bring Ms Salazar Roman and Franky back to New Zealand.

Officials in Ecuador have reported that more than 580 people have been injured, but that figure is now thought to be around 1557, according to AP.

The country's Vice President Jorge Glas said there were deaths in the cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Guayaquil.

Mr Glas said 10,000 armed forces had been deployed to help and 4600 national police were sent to towns near the epicentre.

President Rafael Correa declared a national emergency and urged Ecuadoreans to stay strong.