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

The US Geological Survey reported a magnitude 6.8 earthquake centered near the Pacific coast, about 50 miles south of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second-largest city. One person was killed in Peru, and 13 others died in Ecuador, where authorities also reported at least 126 injuries.

Ecuador’s president, Guillermo Laso, told reporters that the earthquake “without a doubt … caused alarm among the population.” A statement from Lasso’s office said 11 victims died in the coastal state of El Oro and two in the highland state of Azuay.

an earthquake
Damage from a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in 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 Atarola said a 4-year-old girl died of head injuries she suffered when her home collapsed in the Tumbes region, on the border with Ecuador.

One of the victims in Azua was a passenger in a car that crashed into a house in the Andean community of Cuenca, according to the Secretariat for Risk Management, Ecuador’s emergency management agency.

In El Oro, the agency also reported that several people were trapped under the rubble. In the village of Machala, 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 the National Police assessed the damage, hampered by downed power lines that knocked out phone and electricity.

Machala resident Fabricio Cruz said he was in his third-floor apartment when he felt a strong jolt and saw his TV fall to the ground. He went straight away.

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

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

In Guayaquil, about 170 miles southwest of the capital, Quito, authorities reported cracks in buildings and houses and collapsed walls. Authorities have ordered the closure of three car tunnels in Guayaquil, which connect the metro area with more than 3 million people.

Videos shared on social media showed people gathering on the streets of Guayaquil and nearby communities. People have reported falling objects in their homes.

One video posted online showed the three presenters throwing a dart from the studio table as the set shook. At first they tried to reset it due to a minor earthquake, but soon escaped from the cell. One of the hosts revealed that the show would have a commercial break, while another repeated: “Oh my God, oh my God.”

A report from Ecuador’s Adverse Events Monitoring Office 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 more sparsely populated area of ​​the country killed more than 600 people.

In 2019, very powerful An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5 occurred in the south of Ecuadornear the country’s border with Peru.


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