(Quito) A strong earthquake shook southern Ecuador and northern Peru on Saturday, killing at least 12 people, while others are trapped under rubble. Rescue teams were dispatched to streets littered with debris and downed power lines.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake of about magnitude 6.8 that was centered just off the Pacific coast, about 80 kilometers south of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second largest city. .
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso shared a message on Twitter asking residents to stay calm.
One of the victims was the passenger of a vehicle that was crushed by the rubble of a house in the Andean community of Cuenca, according to the Risk Management Secretariat, the emergency response agency of the South American country. .
In the coastal state of El Oro, three people died and several were trapped under rubble, the agency reported. In the community of Machala, a two-story house collapsed before people could evacuate, a pier gave way and the walls of a building cracked, trapping an unknown number of people.
The agency said firefighters were working to rescue people while national police assessed the damage, their job made more difficult by downed power lines that disrupted phone and electricity service.
In Guayaquil, about 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 road tunnels in Guayaquil, home to a metropolitan area of more than three 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.
Video posted online shows three TV presenters dashing from their desks as the film set shakes. They initially tried to make it look like a minor earthquake, but quickly ran off camera. One presenter indicated that the show was going to take a commercial break, while another repeated, “My God, my God.”
The quake was also felt in northern Peru, where its impacts were not immediately clear Saturday afternoon.
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.