A powerful earthquake rocked southern Ecuador and northern Peru on Saturday, killing at least 14 people, trapping others under rubble and sending rescue teams into streets littered with rubble and power lines.
The US Geological Survey said the 6.8-magnitude quake was centered on the Pacific coast about 50 miles south of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second-largest city. One of the victims died in Peru, and 13 died in Ecuador, where authorities said at least 126 were injured.
Ecuador’s president, Guillermo Lasso, told reporters the earthquake “undoubtedly … caused panic among the people.” Lasso’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 Azua.
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In Peru, the earthquake was felt from its northern border with Ecuador to the central Pacific coast. A 4-year-old girl died of head injuries when her home collapsed in the Tumbes region on the border with Ecuador, Peruvian Prime Minister Alberto Otarola said.
Ecuador’s emergency response agency, the Risk Management Secretariat, said a passenger in Azuay was among the passengers in a car that was crushed by debris from a house in the Andean community of Cuenca.
In El Oro, the agency also reported that several people were trapped under the rubble. In Machala community, a two-storey house collapsed before people could be evacuated, giving way to a pier and cracking the wall of a building, trapping an unknown number of people.
The agency said firefighters worked to rescue people while national police assessed the damage, made more difficult by downed lines that disrupted telephone 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 ground. 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 also said that when he looked around, he saw the roofs of nearby houses collapsing.
The Ecuadorian government also reported damage to health care centers and schools. Lasso said he will go to El Oro on Saturday.
In Guayaquil, about 170 miles southwest of the capital Quito, authorities reported cracks in buildings and homes, as well as some walls collapsing. Authorities ordered the closure of three vehicular tunnels in Guayaquil, which anchor a metro area of more than 3 million people.
Videos shared on social media showed people gathering on the streets of Guayaquil and surrounding communities. People have reported things falling inside their homes.
A video posted online shows three anchors of a show dart from their studio desks as the set shakes. They initially tried to shake it off as a minor earthquake but soon ran away from the camera. One presenter signaled that the show would go to commercial break, while another repeated, “My God, my God.”
A report by Ecuador’s Adverse Events Monitoring Directorate dismissed the tsunami threat.
An old wall of an army barracks in Tumbes has collapsed, Peruvian authorities said.
Ecuador is particularly prone to earthquakes. In 2016, an earthquake centered further north on the Pacific coast killed more than 600 people in a more sparsely populated area of the country.
In 2019, a very strong A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck southern EcuadorClose to the country’s border with Peru.