QUITO (AP) — A strong earthquake shook the coastal area of Ecuador on Saturday, where it left at least 14 dead, 381 injured and damaged dozens of homes, schools and health centers, in addition to causing the death of a girl in a town Peruvian border, authorities reported.
The United States Geological Survey said the earthquake had a magnitude of 6.7 and occurred shortly after noon in the Guayas region, with its epicenter about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Guayaquil, the second largest city. from Ecuador.
President Guillermo Lasso, at a press conference, said that the number of victims “is something that hurts us a lot, they are the result of the ravages of nature,” after visiting the cities of Machala, the most affected by the seismic movement, and Cuenca, others with various damages.
He also expressed that he has arranged for the state portfolios to release economic resources to attend the emergency.
The Risk Management Secretariat reported that 12 people lost their lives in the coastal province of El Oro, whose capital is Machala. He pointed out that in that area some houses collapsed, a dock was destroyed and the walls and columns of a bank building cracked, trapping an unknown number of people.
Authorities said the Ecuadorian air force began transferring wounded from Machala to health centers in Guayaquil.
Lasso, who asked the population for calm, during the afternoon visited those injured by the earthquake in Machala and expressed his solidarity with the families of the deceased and the affected people.
Two people died in the Andean province of Azuay, 310 kilometers south of Quito, one of them in the city of Cuenca when the vehicle he was driving down a street was left under rubble when the second floor of a house collapsed in the middle of the colonial center. , according to the secretariat.
In Peru, Prime Minister Alberto Otárola reported that a 4-year-old girl died in a hospital in the Tumbes region, on the border with Ecuador. The minor suffered a brain injury after her house collapsed due to the earthquake in Ecuador and that she also felt in Peru.
The Peruvian civil defense said that due to the tremor, four houses were left uninhabitable in the Tumbes region.
The Secretary of Communication of the Ecuadorian State reported that so far the destruction of 44 homes has been recorded, another 90 with damage of varying magnitude, as well as 50 schools, 31 health centers and 17 other public buildings.
In the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil, some 270 kilometers (170 miles) southwest of Quito, cracks were reported in buildings and homes, as well as some collapsed walls. Authorities ordered the closure of three vehicular tunnels in Guayaquil, with a population of some 3 million people in the metropolitan area.
Videos shared on social media showed people gathering on the streets of that city and nearby communities.
Dolores Vaca, who lost her home in the populous 4 de Abril neighborhood in Machala, told The Associated Press by phone that in the first shock she ran out into the street and that her husband managed to drag their underage daughter. Then, “everything fell apart, the house settled, everything was lost,” she said.
She pointed out that her neighbors did not have the same luck, assuring that five died when the house next to hers fell on those people without giving them time to get out.
The fisherman Luis Tomalá, who was fishing at sea, told the AP that unexpectedly “the boat turned like a racehorse, we got scared, and when we turned on the radio we heard about the tremor, but we stayed in the sea thinking that a tsunami could come”. The authorities ruled out that possibility after the earthquake.
Katherine Cruz, from Machala, told the AP that “it was horrible, I had never felt anything like this in my life,” she said that she could not get up to leave her room to flee to the street. “I only heard things break, thank God only it was a big scare”. Her one-story home was left without major damage.
The neighborhoods most affected by the seismic movement in Machala are in the area of Puerto Bolívar and are of precarious construction, mainly made of wood and blocks.
The Quito architect and builder, Germán Narváez, told the AP that the houses most affected during seismic movements are those with deficient construction, without foundations, structure and technical design, so that “at critical moments of seismic movements, they tend to collapse”, in addition to ancient structures built with materials such as adobe (earth bricks and straw) typical of the old areas of Ecuadorian Andean cities.
Fabricio Cruz, a resident of Machala, said that he was in his apartment on the third floor when he felt a strong tremor and saw how his television fell to the ground.
“Then I left my house with the first thing I found at hand and I heard how my neighbors were shouting and there was a lot of noise,” the 34-year-old photographer recounted. He added that when he got to the street he found some roofs of nearby houses collapsed.
The earthquake took place at 12:53 p.m. (1753 GMT) in an area located to the south of Puná Island, with a very low population density.
The quake was also felt in Peru, from the border with Ecuador to the central Peruvian Pacific coast. The regions of Tumbes, Piura, Lambayeque and Ancash were shaken by the seismic movement, although at the moment no material or human damage is known.
In Tumbes, the old walls of an Army barracks collapsed, but without causing damage or victims, indicated the civil defense.
On April 16, 2016, a powerful earthquake off the central coast of the country left nearly 680 dead, serious destruction in cities such as Manta, Portoviejo and Pedernales, among others, and damages of around 1.5 billion dollars throughout the country. according to the authorities.
Associated Press writers Regina García Cano in Caracas and Franklin Briceño in Lima contributed to this report.