A powerful earthquake has struck southern Ecuador and northern Peru, killing at least 14 people, trapping others under rubble and littering streets with debris and downed power lines.
Key points: One victim died in Peru, while 13 others died in Ecuador. Telephone and power lines were cut in about 20 educational buildings and more than 30 health centers were damaged.
The USGS reported a 6.8-magnitude earthquake that had its epicenter off the Pacific coast, about 80 kilometers south of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second-largest city.
One of the victims died in Peru, while 13 others died in Ecuador, where authorities also reported that at least 126 people were injured.
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso told reporters that the quake had “undoubtedly … caused concern among the population.”
Laso’s office said in a statement that 11 of the victims died in the coastal state of El Oro and two in the highland state of Azuay.
In Peru, the earthquake was felt from its northern border with Ecuador to the central Pacific coast.
Peruvian Prime Minister Alberto Otarola said a four-year-old girl died from head trauma suffered in the collapse of her home in the Tumbes region on the border with Ecuador.
The epicenter was off the Pacific coast in Ecuador (AP: Erick Feijoo)
According to the Risk Management Secretariat, Ecuador’s emergency response agency, one of the victims in Azuay was a passenger in a car that was smashed by rubble from a home in the Andean region of Cuenca.
In El Oro, the agency also reported that several people were trapped under the rubble.
In the town of Machala, a two-storey house collapsed before people could evacuate, a sidewalk collapsed and the walls of the building cracked, trapping an unknown number of people.
The agency said firefighters worked to rescue people while the National Police assessed the damage, and their work was made more difficult by downed lines that cut telephone and electricity service.
‘We all ran out into the streets’ The USGS said the quake had a magnitude of about 6.8 (AP: Xavier Caivinagua)
The Communications Agency of the Presidency of the Republic said that at least seven homes were destroyed, while 50 others were damaged.
About 20 educational buildings and more than 30 health centers were also damaged, and multiple roads were blocked by landslides caused by the quake.
“We all ran into the streets…we were very scared,” said Ernesto Alvarado, a resident of Isla Puna near the epicenter, adding that some houses had collapsed.
Machala resident Fabricio Cruz said he was in his apartment on the third floor when he felt a strong jolt and saw his TV hit the floor. Head right away.
“I heard how my neighbors were screaming and there was a lot of noise,” said Mr. Cruz, the 34-year-old photographer.
He added that when he looked around, he noticed the rooftops of nearby houses collapsing.
The Ecuadorian government also reported damage to health care centers and schools. Laso said he will travel to El Oro on Saturday.
Ecuador is particularly prone to earthquakes (AP: Jorge Sanchez)
In Guayaquil, about 270 kilometers southwest of the capital, Quito, authorities reported cracks in buildings and homes, as well as some collapsed walls.
Authorities have ordered the closure of three car tunnels in Guayaquil, which dock in a metro area home to more than 3 million people.
Videos shared on social media show people gathered in the streets of Guayaquil and nearby communities. People have reported falling objects inside their homes.
One video posted online showed three presenters parading from their studio desk while the set shook.
They initially try to dismiss it as a simple earthquake but quickly flee the camera. One announcer noted that the show would be on commercial hiatus, while another repeated “Oh my God, my God”.
A report from Ecuador’s Directorate for Adverse Event Control ruled out a tsunami threat.
Peruvian authorities said the old walls of a military barracks had collapsed in Tumbes.
Ecuador is particularly prone to earthquakes. In 2016, an earthquake centered north on the Pacific coast in a sparsely populated part of the country killed more than 600 people.
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