Earthquake in Ecuador and Peru kills at least 14 and causes extensive damage

A powerful earthquake shook southern Ecuador and northern Peru on Saturday, killing at least 14 people, leaving others under rubble and sending rescue teams into streets littered with debris and downed power lines.

The US Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of about 6.8 centered just off the Pacific coast, about 50 miles south of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second-largest city. One of the victims died in Peru, while 13 others died in Ecuador, where authorities also said at least 126 people were injured.

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso told reporters that the earthquake had “undoubtedly… caused alarm among the population.” A statement from Lasso’s office said 11 of the victims died in the coastal state of El Oro and two in the state of Azuay.

Damage from a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in the town of Balao, Azuay Province, Ecuador, on March 18, 2023.

Dario Ordonez / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In Peru, the earthquake was felt from its northern border with Ecuador to the central Pacific coast. Peru’s Prime Minister Alberto Otárola said a 4-year-old girl died of head injuries when her home collapsed in the Tumbes region on the border with Ecuador.

One of Azuay’s victims was a passenger in a vehicle that crushed a house in the Andean region of Cuenca with rubble, according to the risk management secretariat of Ecuador’s emergency aid agency.

In El Oro, the agency also reported that several people were trapped under the rubble. In Machala municipality, a two-story house collapsed before people could evacuate, the pier gave way and the walls of the building cracked, trapping an unknown number of people.

The agency said firefighters worked to save people while national police assessed the damage, hampered by the interruption of telephone and power services.

Machala resident Fabricio Cruz said he was in his third-floor apartment when he felt a strong tremor and saw the television fall to the ground. He immediately went out.

“I heard the neighbors screaming and there was a lot of noise,” said Cruz, a 34-year-old photographer. He added that when he looked around, he noticed collapsed roofs of nearby houses.

The Ecuadorian government also reported damage to health centers and schools. Lasso said he will travel to El Oro on Saturday.

In Guayaquil, about 170 kilometers southwest of the capital Quito, officials reported cracks in buildings and homes and some collapsed walls. Authorities ordered the closure of three vehicular tunnels in Guayaquil that anchor the metro area of ​​more than 3 million people.

Videos shared on social media show people gathered on the streets of Guayaquil and nearby communities. People reported objects falling into their homes.

One video posted online showed three anchors from the show noose on a studio desk as the set shook. At first they tried to shake it as a small tremor, but soon they ran away from the camera. One anchor announced that the show would go to commercial break, while another repeated, “My God, my God.”

A report from Ecuador’s Adverse Events Control Agency rules out the threat of a tsunami.

Peruvian officials said the old walls of an army barracks collapsed in Tumbes.

Ecuador is particularly prone to earthquakes. In 2016, a quake centered farther north on the Pacific coast in a less populated area of ​​the country killed more than 600 people.

In 2019, very strong A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck southern Ecuadornear the country’s border with Peru.

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