Magnitude-6.8 earthquake shakes Ecuador, at least 14 deaths reported

Destroyed buildings are seen after an earthquake in Machala, Ecuador, on March 18, 2023. PHOTO: AFP
A destroyed car is seen after the cornice and terrace of a building located in Cuenca's historic centre fell, in Ecuador on March 18, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

QUITO - At least 14 people were killed in a strong earthquake that shook a coastal region of Ecuador and northern Peru at midday on Saturday, causing structural damage to multiple homes, schools and medical centres.

“We remain in the territory verifying the damage caused by the earthquake this morning. I want to confirm that I am with you and express my solidarity and commitment to the victims,” said Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso in a tweet.

The quake, which the United States Geological Survey (USGS) measured at magnitude 6.8, struck at a depth of 66.4km, about 10km from the city of Balao in the province of Guayas.

The quake did not appear likely to generate a tsunami, the authorities said.

The presidency’s communication agency said the quake left 14 people dead and more than 380 people injured, largely in the El Oro province.

The agency said at least 44 homes were destroyed, while 90 more were damaged. Around 50 educational buildings and more than 30 health centres were also affected, while multiple roadways were blocked by landslides caused by the quake. 

The Santa Rosa airport suffered minor damage but remained in operation.

Ecuador’s Secretariat of Risk Management said in an earlier statement that the death in Azuay province occurred when a wall collapsed onto a vehicle. In other provinces, structural damage included a collapsed wharf and a collapsed wall in a supermarket.

The agency said state-run oil company Petroecuador had evacuated and suspended activities in multiple facilities out of precaution, but had not reported damage.

“We all ran out into the streets... we were very scared,” Mr Ernesto Alvarado, a resident of Isla Puna near the epicentre, told Reuters, adding that some homes had collapsed.

The initial quake was followed by two weaker aftershocks in the following hour, according to the Geophysics Institute of Ecuador.

The Peruvian authorities said the quake was felt in the country’s northern region, and that there were no immediate reports of harm to people or structures. REUTERS

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