EFEQuito

Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping joined Ecuador's Rafael Correa on Friday for the inauguration of the Andean nation's largest hydroelectric dam, largely financed through a loan from China's Export-Import Bank.

A day after proclaiming a "comprehensive strategic association" between their two nations, the presidents pressed buttons on a control panel in Quito to activate the eight turbines of the Coca Codo Sinclair dam, which sits on the border of Napo and Sucumbios provinces.

The 1,500 MW complex will supply 30 percent of Ecuador's electricity needs, Correa said, noting that the Chinese loan covered more than two-thirds of the $2.25 billion cost of construction.

The output from Coca Codo Sinclair will also allow the country to close six electric plants that operate with imported fuel, generating annual savings of $600 million, the president said.

"Ecuador and China are separated by a great geographic distance, 16,000 kilometers (9,941 miles), but united by strong bonds of friendship and cooperation," Correa said.

Along with activating the dam, the two heads of state symbolically initiated construction of a new facility to replace a hospital in the northwestern province of Manabi destroyed by the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that struck the region in April, leaving 673 people dead.

The Chinese government is providing around $55 million in financing for the project as part of its efforts to help Quito deal with the disaster and its aftermath, according to Ecuador's Health Ministry.

Xi hailed the evolution of China-Ecuador ties in recent years, as the countries have grown closer economically and increasingly find themselves in agreement on many international issues.

Promising that Beijing will continue to provide post-quake assistance in fields such as housing and health services, he cited a Chinese proverb, "true friendship reveals itself in moments of adversity."

Xi arrived in Quito on the first stop of a South American tour that will take him to Peru for the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and then to Chile.