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From left to right: Mother, Jennifer Mawn, daughter Laurie-Ann, son, Arthur, and father, Pascal Laflamme in this undated photo. Jennifer and Arthur were among the 233 people killed after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Ecuador on April 16, 2016.

Having started a new life with his family in a seaside community in Ecuador last fall, Pascal Laflamme was on his computer Saturday evening, using FaceTime remote videophone to chat with his father, Réal, in Quebec.

Then the ground shook.

Pascal had to interrupt the conversation. When he called his father back later that night, it was to give the terrible news: His wife, Jennifer Mawn, and their 12-year-old son, Arthur, were dead after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake – Ecuador's biggest in decades – in which hundreds were killed.

Pascal and their daughter, Laurie-Ann, 14, survived.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Pascal's uncle, Guy, confirmed the tragic news, which he heard from Réal on Sunday. "He's very, very saddened," Guy said about his brother. "His wife is so sad."

Guy said Pascal had told his family in Quebec that he and his daughter had initially taken refuge at a friend's house. However, they had to flee again because the house was near the coast and there were fears of a tsunami in the aftermath of the quake. Since then, Guy said, relatives haven't heard more news from Pascal and Laurie-Ann. Réal said Canadian consular officials were in touch and were offering support.

Réal told the TVA network that in the middle of his FaceTime conversation with his son, "It started to shake and Pascal said, 'Hey it's an earthquake!' They were getting out and taking shelter. … About two hours later, he called me very upset and told me 'Jennifer and Arthur are dead, and Laurie-Ann and I are hurt.'"

"The scope of the devastation in Ecuador is shocking," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on his Twitter account. "My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives, including two Canadians."

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion said officials from the Canadian embassy are trying to reach Canadian citizens in the country.

Without confirming the names of the victims, a department spokesman, Rachna Mishra, said officials in Ottawa are in contact with the Laflamme family and have offered their support and consular assistance.

Originally from Montreal, Pascal and his family had long lived the life of expatriates, and Ecuador was the latest stop in a business career that had also taken him to Mauritius and the Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. Ms. Mawn was a pediatric psychologist who had worked on Montreal's South Shore.

Pascal came from a family that had long been involved in the TV cable-distribution business.

In a newspaper profile in La Presse published seven years ago, Pascal, who was then 34, explained that after working as a consultant, he was looking for a more exciting challenge and decided to move to the Reunion Island to start a cable company there.

Ecuador has enjoyed increasing popularity among Quebec travellers and snowbirds in recent years. New real-estate developments have sprung up promoted by Quebeckers aimed at upper-middle-class retirees looking for southern homes.

According to Pascal's LinkedIn page, he started working last October as head of marketing for the Las Olas resort community, a beach-side development project near the town of Bahia de Caraquez, about 150 kilometres southwest of the capital, Quito.

After eight years living on islands in the Indian Ocean, Pascal had moved to Ecuador because "he and his family wanted to relocate closer to Canada" while living in Latin America, according to a biographical thumbnail on the Las Olas website.

On Saturday, hours before the earthquake, the Las Olas Facebook page boasted about high-quality construction methods being used on the project. "We want our homes to be solid at Las Olas Ecuador and we are doing everything to achieve that goal," the post said alongside photos of steel reinforcement going into concrete.

"After travelling the world, I told myself that there should be other people on Earth who want to live and retire in a community that respects nature, where like-minded people have fun and enjoy life," Pascal wrote on his LinkedIn page.

The family chronicled their travels online, documenting trips all over the world along with life in their more permanent homes. In videos, Arthur boasted of ordering octopus in a restaurant in Spain during a European tour that spanned more than a dozen countries.

Pascal recorded a session where he encouraged Arthur to practise his English.

"We're dreamers, and for us the end of dreaming is to die a little," Jennifer wrote in one blog post.

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