Ecuador earthquake kills at least four, causes widespread damage

An earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale shakes the coastal region of Guayas, damaging homes and buildings.

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

The US Geological Survey reported a magnitude 6.7 earthquake in the country’s coastal Guayas region on Saturday. It was centered about 80 km (50 mi) south of Guayaquil, which anchors a metropolitan area of ​​more than 3 million people.

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

The South American country’s emergency aid agency, the Risk Management Secretariat, reported that one person has died in the Andean community of Cuenca. The victim was a passenger in a car trapped under the rubble of a house.

In the coastal state of El Oro, three people were killed and several were trapped under the rubble, the agency reported. In the community of Machala, a two-story house collapsed before people could evacuate, a pier gave way and the walls of a building broke, trapping an unknown number of people.

The agency said firefighters worked to rescue people while national police assessed the damage, their work being complicated by downed lines that interrupted telephone and electricity service.

In Guayaquil, about 270 km southwest of the capital Quito, authorities reported cracks in houses and other buildings, as well as some collapsed walls. Authorities have ordered the closure of three road tunnels.

Residents look at a building that collapsed after an earthquake in Machala, Ecuador [Jhonny Crespo/AP Photo]

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

A video posted online showed three television show hosts firing from their desks in the studio as the set shook.

They initially tried to shrug it off as a small earthquake, but soon fled from the camera. One presenter indicated that the show would have a commercial break, while another repeated, ‘My God. My God.”

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

The quake was also felt in Peru, from the northern border with Ecuador to the central Pacific coast. No immediate deaths or injuries were reported. In the northern region of Tumbes, the old walls of an army barracks collapsed, authorities said.

Ecuador is particularly prone to earthquakes. In 2016, an earthquake further north on the Pacific coast in a sparsely populated area of ​​the country killed more than 600 people.