A strong earthquake has shaken southern Ecuador and northern Peru, killing at least a dozen people, trapping others under rubble and sending rescue teams out into streets littered with debris and fallen power lines.
The US Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 that was centred just off the Pacific Coast, about 80 kilometres south of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second-largest city.
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Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso in a televised address to the nation said Saturday’s earthquake killed 12 people.
One victim was a passenger in a vehicle crushed by rubble from a house in the Andean community of Cuenca, according to the Risk Management Secretariat, the South American country’s emergency response agency.
In the coastal state of El Oro, three people died and several were trapped under rubble, the agency reported.
“We all ran out into the streets … we were very scared,” said Ernesto Alvarado, a resident of Isla Puna, an island near the epicentre, adding that some homes had collapsed.
In the community of Machala, a two-storey home collapsed before people could flee, a pier gave way and a building’s walls cracked, trapping an unknown number of people.
The agency said firefighters worked to rescue people while the National Police assessed damage, their work made more difficult by downed lines that interrupted telephone and electricity service.
In Guayaquil, about 270km southwest of the capital, Quito, authorities 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.
The initial quake was followed by two weaker aftershocks in the following hour, according to the Geophysics Institute of Ecuador.
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 collapsed, authorities said.
Ecuador is particularly prone to earthquakes. In 2016, a quake centred farther north on the Pacific coast in a more sparsely populated area of the country killed more than 600 people.
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