Disorganised relief efforts exacerbate devastation.

A man from Gisborne caught up in the devastating Ecuador earthquake has spoken of the horror of Saturday's disaster and the chaotic relief efforts since.

Daniel Bayley has been at Canoa, a coastal town of 5000 on the Pacific Coast of Ecuador, for six weeks and was there when the 7.8 magnitude quake devastated 90 per cent of the town. He has stayed to help with relief efforts.

"It is absolute chaos here. When the earthquake struck we all headed inland - everyone was just running. We slept in the mountains in case a tsunami came. When we came back into Canoa the next morning, it was grim."

Mr Bayley said he saw traumatic scenes, people crushed under buildings, and rubble where restaurants and hotels full of patrons had stood just hours before.


"The stories are crazy. One man was standing in the middle of the street and saw an entire building collapse like a stack of cards on top of a restaurant full of people, they were just flattened. There is so much death."

Mr Bayley said the relief effort up until yesterday was disorganised to say the least.

"When we got back into town there was no leadership. No one knew what was happening."

Mr Bayley helped dig a 70-year-old woman from under three floors of rubble on Monday but said there were many others trapped and help at the time was near non-existent.

"No one was helping. I have been so frustrated. Everyone was standing and watching. There were no tools, even the hammers the firefighters had were bad," he said.

"I put it down to the Latin culture of putting immediate family first. People are concerned solely with their family."

Mr Bayley walked 2km every day from his damaged hotel in 30C heat to the centre of Canoa to help rescue efforts.

When army and civil defence arrived on Monday, the work efforts were not much better, he said.

"They were just standing with their guns. I lost it - I threw my spade down in the middle of the street and just yelled, 'Where is your heart? What is wrong with you? Why will you not help your people'?"

As an added danger, constant aftershocks also threaten to collapse damaged buildings.

"I saw an excavator on top of a pile of rubble just going nuts. If anyone was under that building they are surely dead now."

People search a building in Canoa, Ecuador which collapsed in the 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Photo / Supplied
People search a building in Canoa, Ecuador which collapsed in the 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Photo / Supplied

Mr Bayley has faced a tough choice - stay and help, or look after his own safety as tensions among locals rise.

"A truck came in with clothes and everyone was fighting over them. We were trying to calm everyone down and hand them out equally but they kept fighting.

"Food and water was running low, people are shutting shop or hiking prices up. If it was like that over a pair of Jandals, what is it going to be like when water and food runs out?

"I was at the point of giving up when I heard they had found two people alive under a building."

Aid arrived in Canoa yesterday as a result of crowdfunding and international efforts.

International teams are heading rescue efforts and two more people have been found.

"Help finally arrived. There is a lot of help in Canoa now but in the surrounding villages, there is still none."

He left Canoa yesterday for the capital Quito. "We just drove through the epicentre, and it is bad. It is hard to stand by and watch this."

Mr Bayley said hygiene was becoming a major issue, with no running water or places to go to the bathroom.

"People are starting to get sick, there is not a lot of clean water and no one has showered in days. People are robbing and looting too.

"I am in Quito for now, trying to organise relief efforts. We have been handing out food packages. Families are living under sheets between sticks.

"We are handing out one or two packages to a family but people are holding their babies up wanting more. How do you say no when someone holds up their baby?"

A friend of Mr Bayley has set up a Gofundme account for Canoa.

To make a donation, visit gofundme.com/canoa-earthquake.