US carriers offering free service to disaster-stricken areas of the world has become something of a grim but inspiring tradition at this point. After a devastating earthquake struck the area off the coast of Esmeraldas, Ecuador last night, all of Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile have announced that they are offering free calls and texts to the country for the time being. This allows US residents to contact family members and friends in the affected areas. The offer extends to any calls or texts made from yesterday through Sunday, April 24th on Sprint, Saturday the 23rd on T-Mobile, and Friday the 22nd on AT&T. Sprint and T-Mobile subsidiaries like MetroPCS, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile USA, and GoSmart Mobile are also included.
News outlets report that the 7.8-magnitude earthquake has caused more than 200 deaths so far, many more injuries, and the collapse of several buildings in cities along the northwestern coast. Local governmental services, volunteers, and international groups like the Red Cross are searching for trapped survivors and providing support for the injured and displaced. Power outages, road damage, and a lack of clean drinking water are complicating relief efforts.
Typically all major American carriers, including data-only services like Google Hangouts and Skype, offer free calls and texts in the wake of a foreign disaster. Since this one occurred on the weekend, the announcement from other carriers may not come until Monday - typically companies extend the free service backwards to the calamity when they can't immediately announce their support and credit the calls and text messages back. We'll be updating this post as more US services announce free service to Ecuador.Reuters/Guillermo Granja