Earthquake in Ecuador kills at least 4, causes wide damage
Quito, Ecuador — A strong earthquake shook southern Ecuador and northern Peru on Saturday, killing at least four people, trapping others under rubble, and sending rescue teams out into streets littered with debris and fallen power lines.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of about 6.8 that was centered just off the Pacific Coast, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Guayaquil, Ecuador's second-largest city.
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso tweeted a message asking residents to remain calm.
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. In the community of Machala, a two-story home collapsed before people could evacuate, 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 170 miles (270 kilometers) 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 over 3 million people.
Videos shared on social media show people gathered on the streets of Guayaquil and nearby communities. People reported objects falling inside their homes.
One video posted online showed three anchors of a show dart from their studio desk as the set shook. They initially tried to shake it off as a minor quake but soon fled off camera. One anchor indicated the show would go on a commercial break, while another repeated, “My God, my God.”
The earthquake was also felt in northern Peru, where its impacts weren't immediately clear Saturday afternoon.
Ecuador is particularly prone to earthquakes. In 2016, a quake centered farther north on the Pacific Coast in a more sparsely populated area of the country killed more than 600 people.
Associated Press writer Regina Garcia Cano contributed to this report from Caracas, Venezuela.