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Strong earthquake shakes coastal Ecuador, killing at least four

Deaths, damage after quake

UPDATE: 9:22 p.m.

Juan Vera lost three relatives when a strong earthquake that shook parts of Ecuador and Peru on Saturday brought down his niece’s home. The government has offered to pay for the woman’s funeral and those of her baby and her partner, but Vera wonders why local authorities allowed his relatives to live in such an old home to begin with.

“Because of its age, that building should have been demolished already,” Vera said outside the morgue in Ecuador’s community of Machala, where he was waiting for the three bodies to be released. “... I’m sorry, the mayor’s office is the entity that has to regulate these things through its planning departments so that the buildings are in good condition to be rented out or inhabited.”

The earthquake with about 6.8 magnitude, as reported by the U.S. Geological Survey, killed at least 15 people, injured hundreds and brought down homes and buildings in vastly different communities, from coastal areas to the highlands. But in Ecuador, regardless of geography, many of the homes that crumbled had a lot in common: They housed the poor, were old and did not meet building standards in the earthquake-prone country.

The earthquake centered just off the Pacific Coast, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second-largest city. One of the victims died in Peru, while 14 others died in Ecuador, where authorities also reported that at least 381 people were injured and dozens of homes, schools and health care centers were damaged.

The office of Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso reported that 12 of the victims died in the coastal state of El Oro and two in the highlands state of Azuay.

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

In El Oro, the agency also reported that several people were trapped under rubble. 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.

Quito-based architect Germán Narváez said the houses most affected during earthquakes are those with deficient construction and that lack foundation, structure and technical design. He added that the houses are also old and built with materials such as adobe, which was once frequently used in Andean communities.

“At critical moments of seismic movements, they tend to collapse,” he said.

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.

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

Peruvian authorities also reported that four homes were destroyed and the old walls of an Army barracks collapsed in Tumbes.

Saturday’s earthquake destroyed the home of Dolores Vaca in Machala. The moment she felt the first jolt, she said, she ran out into the street while her husband managed to drag their daughter out. Then, “everything fell apart, the house flattened, everything was lost,” she said.

Vaca’s neighbors were not as lucky. She said five died when the house next to hers collapsed.

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. Videos shared on social media show people gathered on the streets of Guayaquil, which anchors a metro area of over 3 million people, and nearby communities.

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.”

A report from Ecuador’s Adverse Events Monitoring Directorate ruled out a tsunami threat.

Machala student Katherine Cruz said her home shook so badly that she could not even get up to leave her room and flee to the street.

“It was horrible. I had never felt anything like this in my life,” she said.


UPDATE: 1 p.m.

A strong earthquake shook the region around Ecuador's second-largest city on Saturday, killing at least four people, damaging homes and buildings, and sending panicked residents into the streets.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 in the country's coastal Guayas region. It was centred about 80 kilometres south of Guayaquil, which anchors a metro area of over 3 million people.

President Guillermo Lasso tweeted a message asking residents to remain calm.

The South American country's emergency response agency, the Risk Management Secretariat, reported one person died in the Andean community of Cuenca. The victim was a passenger in a vehicle trapped under the rubble of a house. Three other people died in the coastal state of El Oro, the agency reported.

In Guayaquil, about 270 kilometres southwest of the capital, Quito, authorities reported cracks on buildings and homes, as well as some collapsed walls. Authorities ordered the closure of three vehicular tunnels.

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.”

A pier sank in the city of Machala. The earthquake was also felt in northern Peru.


ORIGINAL: 11:30 a.m.

A strong earthquake shook Ecuador on Saturday, but there was no immediate word on major damage or injuries.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 in the country's coastal Guayas region. It was centred about 80 kilometres south of Guayaquil, Ecuador's second-largest city.

Videos shared on social media show people gathering on the streets of Guayaquil and nearby communities. People reported objects falling inside their homes in Guayaquil, which anchors an urban area of over 3 million people about 270 kilometres southwest of the capital, Quito.

The earthquake was also felt in northern Peru.



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