(Quito) A strong earthquake shook southern Ecuador and northern Peru on Saturday, killing at least 14 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. . One of the victims died in Peru, while 13 others died in Ecuador, where authorities also reported at least 126 people were injured.
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso shared a message on Twitter asking residents to stay calm. In a statement, the presidential office said 11 of the victims died in the coastal state of El Oro and two in the highland state of Azuay.
In Peru, the earthquake was felt from its northern border with Ecuador to the central Pacific coast. Peruvian Prime Minister Alberto Otárola said a 4-year-old girl died of head trauma sustained when her house collapsed in the Tumbes region on the border with Ecuador.
The victim in the Andean community of Azuay in Cuenca was the passenger of a vehicle that was crushed by the rubble of a house, according to the Risk Management Secretariat, the country’s emergency response agency south -American.
In the coastal state of El Oro, several people were trapped under the 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.
Machala resident Fabricio Cruz testified that 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 Mr. Cruz, a 34-year-old photographer. He added that when he looked around he noticed the collapsed roofs of nearby houses.
The Ecuadorian government also reported damage to health care centers and schools. President Lasso said he would go to El Oro.
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 tsunami threat is ruled out, according to a report by the organization responsible for monitoring such events in Ecuador.
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 less populated area of the country killed more than 600 people.