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Strong earthquake kills at least 12 in Ecuador, 1 in Peru

Strong earthquake kills at least 12 in Ecuador, 1 in Peru


QUITO, Ecuador — A powerful earthquake shook southern Ecuador and northern Peru on Saturday, killing at least thirteen people, trapping others under rubble, and sending rescue teams into the streets filled with debris and downed power lines.

The US Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of about 6.8 centered just off the Pacific Coast, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second-largest city. Twelve of the victims died in Ecuador, while one died in Peru.

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso told reporters that the earthquake “undoubtedly … generated alarm in the population.” Meanwhile, Ecuador’s Risk Management Secretary Cristian Torres said in a radio interview that 11 of the victims died in the coastal state of El Oro and one in the highlands state of Azuay.

In Peru, the earthquake was felt from its northern border with Ecuador to the central Pacific coast. Peru’s Prime Minister Alberto Otárola said a 4-year-old girl died from head trauma she suffered when her home collapsed in the Tumbes region, on the border with Ecuador.

The victim in Azuay’s Andean community of Cuenca was a passenger in a vehicle crushed by rubble from a house, according to the Risk Management Secretariat, Ecuador’s emergency response agency.

In El Oro, the agency also reported that many people were trapped under rubble. In Machala community, a two-storey house collapsed before people could be evacuated, a pier gave way and the walls of a building collapsed, trapping an unknown number of people.

The agency said firefighters worked to rescue people while the National Police assessed the damage, their work hampered by downed lines that disrupted telephone and electricity service.

Machala resident Fabricio Cruz said he was in his third-floor apartment when he felt a strong tremor and saw his television set hit the ground. He immediately went out.

“I heard how my neighbors were screaming and there was a lot of noise,” said Cruz, a 34-year-old photographer. He added that when he looked around, he noticed the collapsed roofs of nearby houses.

Lasso said he will travel on Saturday to El Oro.

In Guayaquil, about 170 miles (270 kilometers) southwest of the capital, Quito, authorities reported cracks in buildings and homes, as well as several collapsed walls. Authorities ordered the closure of three vehicular tunnels in Guayaquil, which anchors a metro area of ​​more than 3 million people.

Videos shared on social media show people gathering in the streets of Guayaquil and nearby communities. People have reported objects falling inside their homes.

A video posted online showed three anchors of a show dart from their studio desk as the set shakes. At first they tried to dismiss it as a minor earthquake but soon ran away from the camera. One anchor indicated that the show would go into a commercial break, while another repeated, “My God, my God.”

A report from Ecuador’s Adverse Events Monitoring Directorate dismissed the threat of a tsunami.

Peruvian authorities say the old walls of an Army barracks in Tumbes have collapsed.

Ecuador is particularly prone to earthquakes. In 2016, an earthquake was centered farther north on the Pacific Coast in a less populated area of ​​the country. killed more than 600 people.

Associated Press writers Regina Garcia Cano in Caracas, Venezuela, and Franklin Briceño in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.