Magnitude 6.8 earthquake in Ecuador kills at least 12 and causes widespread damage

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — A strong earthquake shook southern Ecuador and northern Peru on Saturday, killing at least a dozen 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 of about magnitude 6.8 that was centered just off the Pacific coast, about 80 kilometers south of Guayaquil, the country’s second largest city. Ecuador.

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso said at a televised event that the quake killed 12 people. In a tweet, he also asked people to stay calm.

Risk Management Secretary Cristian Torres said in a radio interview that 11 of the victims died in the coastal state of El Oro and one in the highlands state of Azuay.

The victim in the Andean community of Cuenca in Azuay was a passenger in a vehicle crushed by the rubble of a house, according to the Risk Management Secretariat, the South American country’s emergency response agency.

In El Oro, the agency also reported that several were trapped under 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.

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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.

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.

A video posted online showed three presenters of a show jumping out of their studio office while everything was shaking. 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.”

A report from Ecuador’s Adverse Events Monitoring Directorate ruled out a tsunami threat.

The earthquake was also felt in Peru, from its northern border with Ecuador to the central Pacific coast. No deaths or injuries were immediately reported. In the northern region of Tumbes, the old walls of an army barracks have collapsed, authorities said.

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.

Associated Press writers Regina Garcia Cano in Caracas, Venezuela, and Franklin Briceño in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.


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