At least 14 killed in earthquake in Ecuador and Peru

At least 14 people were killed and many injured in Saturday’s earthquake that struck southern Ecuador, causing widespread damage and affecting neighboring Peru, according to an official report.

According to the American Seismological Institute USGS, the magnitude of the earthquake reached 6.8. Ecuadorian officials, for their part, rated the magnitude at 6.5, and Peru’s at 6.7.

Ecuador’s presidency reported 13 deaths, including 11 in El Oro province and two in Azuay province in the country’s southwest, and many more injured without specifying numbers.

In the Peruvian city of Tumbe, on the border with Ecuador, a four-year-old girl died after a brick fell on her head, officials said.

“Where there is a pool of blood, she was playing with my other niece and a block fell on her,” David Alvarado, the child’s uncle, told AFP.

Relief at work in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador, after an earthquake March 18, 2023 (AFP – Fernando Machado)

The earthquake occurred at 12:12 p.m. (5:12 p.m. GMT), at a depth of 44 km, with the epicenter in the city of Balao, about 140 km south of the large port of Guayaquil. This created panic among the villagers and they came out on the road. Houses collapsed in several cities, including Cuenca (Ajue Province), one of the most affected areas.

“I went into the street because I saw people running, scared and other people getting out of cars,” Magali Escandón, who sells sewing goods in the Andean city, told AFP. “They were running, they were screaming, they were crying,” she said.

In the historic center of Cuenca, AFP reporters saw collapsed buildings, damaged old houses, cracks in walls and vehicles crushed by debris. Many roads in the city were blocked due to landslides caused by the earthquake.

– call for calm –

The quake was also felt in the capital, Quito, according to testimonies on social networks.

Buildings destroyed by the earthquake in the city of Machala, Ecuador, March 18, 2023 (AFP - Glenn Suarez)
Buildings destroyed by the earthquake in the city of Machala, Ecuador, March 18, 2023 (AFP – Glenn Suarez)

“I appeal for calm and information through official channels,” tweeted Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso, who immediately went to El Oro province and then to the city of Cuenca to see the damage caused by the earthquake.

The memory of the devastating earthquake that shook Ecuador in 2016 is still fresh in people’s minds. This earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 killed 673 people and destroyed coastal villages. Damage was estimated at more than three billion euros.

“It (…) is a relatively high magnitude for the country,” Mario Ruiz, director of the Ecuadorian Geophysical Institute, said in an interview with local FM Mundo radio about Saturday’s quake. “In the Gulf of Guayaquil region, we have heard of two earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 5.0 per year since 2017 (…),” he said.

“After 12:13 p.m., the biggest aftershock occurred at 12:22 p.m.,” Ruiz said, noting that there were a total of eight aftershocks.

According to the Ecuadorian Navy’s Oceanographic and Antarctic Institute, the earthquake “does not meet the conditions likely to generate a tsunami” in the Pacific.

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