QUITO, Ecuador -- Rescue workcrs reported today tremors that shattered 30 cities and towns in the area some 70 miles south of Quito.
The city ot Ambato, in the center of the quake area was one third destroyed. Officials reported 300 killed in Ambato alone, 60 in one church that collapsed.
The first tremor struck at 2 p. m. yesterday and was followed by 14 other long, slow earth waves, according to the Quito observatory. Experts said it was presumed that an entire range of the Andes mountains was collapsing.
The quake destroyed sections of the pan-American highway south of Quito, hindering rescue work, and caused a serious interruption in communications. The government of President Galo Plaza Lasso ordered army rescue units organized to aid Red Cross teams. The rescue caravans were ordered to the disaster area but were delayed by the blocked roads.
The earthquake struck in a densely-populated agricultural region. It was the second in the Andes within two months. A quake in Chile killed 5 persons last June.
Most seriously damaged city next to Ambato was the summer resort town of Latacunga, 50 miles south of Quito. Twenty-seven were reported killed there. The towers of three churches collapsed and many houses were destroyed.
President Plaza Lasso and his minister of defense, Manuel Diaz Granados, left for the disaster area by airplane last night. Government planes also carried first aid crews to the area. Other planes were readied to fly in medical supplies and food today.
Telegraphic reports from Ambato said one third of the city's buildings were destroyed and the others were damaged by huge cracks. An unofficial report set the death toll at 300. The bodies of 60 victims were recovered from one church that collapsed. Eighty other bodies were recovered from homes.
These reports said the Ambato river, running through the center of the city, was rising to flood stage and threatening to overflow its banks. Ambato has a population of 32,000.
The broadcasting station of the Shell Oil Co. in Ambato said the terror-stricken population had fled to the open country. This report said the city was almost entirely in ruins.
The Ambato police chief reported the police headquarters building simply disappeared in a heap of ruins. He appealed for help, especially gasoline lamps to aid night rescue operations. Light and power were interrupted by the quake.
Tremblors continued intermittently last night after the first major series of quakes, the shell broadcast reported.
Unofficial reports said quake damage was reported from at least 30 towns in the area. Damage was estimated to be at least $10,000.