(Cuenca) At least 15 people died and several were injured on Saturday in an earthquake in southern Ecuador and Peru, which caused extensive damage, according to a new official report published on Sunday.
According to the American Seismological Institute USGS, the magnitude of the earthquake reached 6.8. Authorities in Ecuador rated it at 6.5 and those in Peru at 6.7.
In Ecuador, 14 people were killed in the southwestern provinces of El Oro and Azuay, and several others were injured, the presidency said.
In the Peruvian town of Tumbes, on the border with Ecuador, a four-year-old girl was killed by a brick that fell on her head, authorities said.
“Where the pool of blood is, she was playing with my other niece and a block fell on her,” David Alvarado, the child’s uncle, told AFP.
The earthquake occurred at 12:12 p.m. (1:12 p.m. Eastern Time), at a depth of 44 km, with the epicenter in the town of Balao, about 140 km south of the major Ecuadorian port of Guayaquil. It caused panic among residents who took to the streets. Homes collapsed in several cities, including Cuenca, in the province of Azuay, one of the most affected.
“I went out into the street because I saw people running, terrified, others getting out of cars,” said Magaly Escandón, a seller of sewing items in this Andean city. “They were running, they were screaming, they were crying.”
In the historic center of Cuenca, AFP journalists saw collapsed buildings, damaged old houses, cracked walls and vehicles crushed by debris. Several streets in this city were blocked due to landslides caused by the earthquake.
Ecuadorian authorities reported 360 buildings destroyed or damaged in the country. Twenty-two landslides were reported in Azuay province.
In Tumbes, 12 homes were damaged.
The earthquake was felt even in the capital Quito, according to testimonies on social networks.
“I appeal for calm and for information through official channels,” tweeted Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso, who immediately traveled to El Oro province and then to Cuenca to “see the damage.”
Brazil expressed its solidarity with the two affected countries on Sunday, as Chile had already done the day before, saying it was “ready to provide all possible assistance to the authorities to respond to the humanitarian emergency”.
The memory of the devastating earthquake that shook Ecuador in 2016 is still fresh in this country. With a magnitude of 7.8, the earthquake claimed 673 lives and destroyed coastal villages.
“It’s a relatively high magnitude for […] the country,” Mario Ruiz, director of the Ecuadorian Geophysical Institute, told local FM Mundo radio about Saturday’s quake. “In the Gulf of Guayaquil region, we have had since 2017 […] about two earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 5.0 per year,” he recalled.
“After 12:13 p.m., the largest aftershock occurred at 12:22 p.m.,” Ruiz added, noting that there were eight aftershocks in total.