Powerful earthquake hits Ecuador and Peru, killing at least 14 people
A strong earthquake rocked southern Ecuador and northern Peru on Saturday, killing at least 15 people, trapping others under rubble and sending rescue teams to streets littered with debris and downed power lines .
The US Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of around 6.8 that was centered just off the Pacific coast, about 80 kilometers south of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second largest city. . One of the victims died in Peru, while 14 others died in Ecuador, where authorities also reported at least 126 people were injured.
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso told reporters that the earthquake had “without a doubt…alarmed the population”.
In Peru, the earthquake was felt from its northern border with Ecuador to the central Pacific coast. Peruvian Prime Minister Alberto Otárola said a 4-year-old girl died from head trauma sustained when her house collapsed in the Tumbes region on the border with Ecuador.
One of the victims in Azuay was a passenger in a vehicle crushed by the rubble of a house in the Andean community of Cuenca, according to the Risk Management Secretariat, Ecuador’s emergency response agency.
In El Oro, the agency also reported that several people were trapped under the rubble. In the community of Machala, a two-storey house collapsed before people could evacuate, a pier gave way and the walls of a building cracked, trapping an unknown number of people.
The agency said firefighters were working to rescue people while national police assessed the damage, their job made more difficult by downed lines that disrupted phone and power service.
Machala resident Fabricio Cruz said he was in his third-floor apartment when he felt a strong tremor and saw his television hit the floor. He left immediately.
“I heard how my neighbors were screaming and there was a lot of noise,” said Cruz, a 34-year-old photographer. He added that when he looked around he noticed the collapsed roofs of nearby houses.
The Ecuadorian government also reported damage to health care centers and schools. Lasso said he would travel to El Oro on Saturday.
In Guayaquil, about 170 miles (270 kilometers) southwest of the capital, Quito, authorities reported cracks in buildings and homes, as well as collapsed walls. Authorities have ordered the closure of three vehicle tunnels in Guayaquil, which anchor a metropolitan area of more than 3 million people.
Videos shared on social media show people gathered in the streets of Guayaquil and nearby communities. People have reported fallen items inside their homes.
Video posted online showed three anchors of a show dart from their studio desk as the set shook. They first tried to shake off a minor earthquake, but quickly ran away from the camera. One presenter indicated that the show would take a commercial break, while another repeated, “My God, my God.”
Luis Tomalá was fishing with others when the earthquake hit. He said their boat started moving “like a racehorse, we got scared, and when we turned on the radio we heard about the earthquake”. That’s when his group, Tomalá said, decided to stay at sea, fearing a tsunami might develop.
A report from Ecuador’s Adverse Events Monitoring Directorate ruled out a tsunami threat.
Peruvian authorities said the old walls of an army barracks collapsed in Tumbes.
Ecuador is particularly prone to earthquakes. In 2016, an earthquake centered further north on the Pacific coast in a less populated area of the country killed more than 600 people.
Katherine Cruz, a student at Machala, said her house shook so badly she couldn’t even get up to leave her room and run out into the street.
“It was horrible. I had never felt anything like this in my life,” she said.