Aid began to flow in Sunday to areas devastated by Ecuador's strongest earthquake in decades and the death toll continued to rise as people left homeless hunkered down for another night outside in the dark.

Officials said the quake killed at least 246 people and injured more than 2,500 along Ecuador's coast. Vice President Jorge Glas said the toll was likely to rise because a large number of people remained unaccounted for, though he declined to say how many.

Much damage was reported in the cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Guayaquil, which are all several hundred kilometers (miles) from the epicenter of the quake that struck shortly after nightfall Saturday.

But the loss of life seemed to be far worse in isolated, smaller towns closed to the center of the earthquake.

In Pedernales, a town of 40,000 near the epicenter, soldiers put up a field hospital in a stadium where hundreds of people prepared to sleep outside for a second straight night. Downed power cables snaked across the streets with no prospect of electricity being restored soon, making it unsafe for many to return to their homes. (Associated Press)