A strong earthquake rattled southern Ecuador and northern Peru on Saturday, killing at least 15 people, trapping others under rubble, and sending rescue teams into streets littered with rubble and downed power lines.
The US Geological Survey reported a magnitude 6.8 earthquake that was centered off the Pacific coast about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second largest city. One of the victims died in Peru, while 14 others were killed in Ecuador, where officials also reported that at least 126 people were injured.
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso told reporters that the earthquake “without a doubt … caused alarm in the population.” Lasso’s office said in a statement that 12 of the victims died in the coastal state of El Oro and two in the mountainous state of Ajuay.
In Peru, the earthquake was felt from its northern border with Ecuador to the central Pacific coast. Peruvian Prime Minister Alberto Otarola said a 4-year-old girl died of head injuries from the collapse of her house in the Tumbes region, on the border with Ecuador.
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One of the victims in Azuay was a passenger in a vehicle crushed by debris from a home in the Andean community of Cuenca, according to Ecuador’s emergency response agency, the Risk Management Secretariat.
In El Oro, the agency also reported that several people were buried under the rubble. In the community of Machala, a two-story house collapsed before residents could evacuate, a pier collapsed and a building collapsed walls, trapping an unknown number of people.
The agency said that firefighters worked to rescue people while national police assessed the damage, their task made more difficult by the disruption of telephone and electricity service.
Machala resident Fabricio Cruz said he was in his third-floor apartment when he felt a strong quake and saw his television fall to the ground. He immediately went out.
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“I heard my neighbors screaming and there was a lot of noise,” said Cruz, a 34-year-old photographer. He said that when he looked around, he saw roofs of nearby houses collapsed.
The government of Ecuador has also reported damage to health care centers and schools. Lasso said he would travel to El Oro on Saturday.
In Guayaquil, about 170 miles (270 kilometers) southwest of the capital Quito, officials reported cracks in buildings and homes, as well as some collapsed walls. Authorities ordered the closure of three vehicular tunnels in Guayaquil, which anchors a metro area of more than three million people.
Videos shared on social media showed people gathering in the streets of Guayaquil and surrounding communities. People reported falling objects inside their homes.
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A video posted online showed the three anchors of the show dart from their studio desks as the set shook. He initially tried to pass it off as a minor earthquake but soon shied away from the camera. One anchor indicated that the show would go off commercial, while another repeated, “My God, my God.”
Luis Tomala was fishing with others when the earthquake struck. He said his boat started rocking “like a racehorse, we got scared, and when we turned on the radio, we heard an earthquake.” That’s when Tomala said that his group decided to stay at sea for fear of a tsunami.
A report by Ecuador’s Adverse Events Monitoring Directorate denied the threat of a tsunami.
Peruvian officials said the old walls of an army barracks in Tumbes collapsed.
Ecuador is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes. In 2016, an earthquake centered north on the Pacific coast in a more populous region of the country killed more than 600 people.
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Machala student Katherine Cruz said her house shook so badly she couldn’t even get out of her room and run into the street.
“It was terrible. I had never felt like this in my life,” she said.
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