Sunday, March 19, 2023
GUAYAQUIL: At least 14 people were killed, one was wounded and buildings were damaged in a powerful earthquake that shook Peru and Ecuador earlier Saturday, Ecuador’s presidency said.
Destroyed buildings, crushed vehicles and debris could be seen in cities such as Machala in Ecuador, as rescue officials rushed to lend aid and tearful residents gathered in the streets.
The quake, which the United States Geological Survey (USGS) put at a magnitude 6.8 and a depth of nearly 41 miles (66 kilometers), struck at 12:12 local time (1712 GMT).
Its epicenter was 52 miles (85 kilometers) northeast of the Peruvian city of Zarumilla, near the border with Ecuador, the National Seismological Center of Peru reported.
"So far, 12 deaths are reported (11 in the province of El Oro and one in the province of Azuay)," Ecuador’s presidency said in a tweet.
Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso urged people to remain "calm and to be informed through official channels" about damage to buildings in a message on Twitter.
According to Quito’s Risk Management Office, the facade of a house collapsed on a vehicle and left "a deceased person" in the city of Cuenca in the south.
Nearby, in the province of El Oro, three people were reported dead when a tower toppled and fatally crushed them. It was not immediately clear where the other deaths took place.
The tremor was strongly felt in cities such as Guayaquil, Quito, Manabi and Manta, social media reports said.
Ecuador’s presidency reported that "there are injured people who are being treated promptly in hospitals," but did not provide any figures.
President Guillermo Lasso traveled to El Oro, where he visited the wounded in a hospital, and will next head to Azuay.
"I have just finished visiting the city of Machala... I have ratified government support, the availability of resources," he said in a video posted on Twitter.
Earlier in the day he urged people to remain "calm and to be informed through official channels" about damage to buildings.
According to Quito’s Risk Management Office, the facade of a house collapsed on a vehicle and left "a deceased person" in Cuenca. AFP journalists in the city also reported that old houses in the historic center had been damaged.
Roads near Cuenca were additionally blocked by landsides.
Nearby, in the province of El Oro, three people were reported dead when a tower toppled and fatally crushed them.
The earthquake shook the north and central coasts of Peru with less intensity. In Tumbes, it damaged 12 homes, according to an official report.
"It is a relatively high magnitude for what we have in the country," said Mario Ruiz, director of the Ecuadorian Geophysical Institute in an interview with FM Mundo radio.
Peruvian seismological authorities initially reported a magnitude of 7.0, but hours later downgraded the magnitude to 6.7.
A first aftershock of magnitude 4.8 was recorded in Balao, Ecuador. The Ecuadoran navy said there was no tsunami threat.
In 2016, a quake with a magnitude of 7.8 hit Ecuador’s western provinces of Manabi and Esmeraldas, killing 673 people and causing an estimated $3 billion in damage.