QUITO, Ecuador — A strong earthquake shook southern Ecuador and northern Peru on Saturday, killing at least 14 people, trapping others under rubble and sending rescue teams into streets strewn with debris and downed power lines.
The US Geological Survey reported a magnitude 6.8 earthquake centered just off the Pacific coast, about 50 miles south of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second-largest city. One of the victims died in Peru, and another 13 died in Ecuador, where authorities also said at least 126 people were injured.
Ecuador’s president, Guillermo Lasso, told reporters that the earthquake “without a doubt … caused alarm among the population.” A statement from Lasso’s office said 11 of the victims died in the coastal state of El Oro and two in the highland state of Azuay.
In Peru, the earthquake was felt from the northern border with Ecuador to the central Pacific coast. Peruvian Prime Minister Alberto Otarola 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.
One of the victims in Azuay was a passenger in a vehicle crushed by debris from a house in the Andean community of Cuenca, according to the Secretariat of Risk Management, Ecuador’s emergency response agency.
In El Oro, the agency also reported that several people were trapped under the rubble. In the community of Machala, a two-story house collapsed before people could evacuate, a pier gave way and the walls of a building cracked, trapping an unknown number of people.
The agency said firefighters worked to rescue people while National Police assessed the damage, their work hampered by downed power lines that knocked out telephone and electrical service.
Machala resident Fabricio Cruz said he was in his third-floor apartment when he felt a strong tremor and saw his TV fall to the ground. He immediately went outside.
“I heard my neighbors 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 the nearby houses.
The Ecuadorian government also reported damage to health centers and schools. Lasso said he will travel Saturday to El Oro.
In Guayaquil, about 170 miles southwest of the capital Quito, authorities reported cracks in buildings and homes and collapsed walls. Authorities ordered the closure of three vehicular tunnels in Guayaquil, which anchor the metro with more than 3 million people.
Videos shared on social media showed people gathered on the streets of Guayaquil and nearby communities. People are reporting objects falling into their homes.
A video posted online shows three show hosts shot from the desk in their studio until the set shook. At first they tried to shake it off as a mild earthquake, but soon ran away from the camera. One host indicated the show would go into commercial break, while another repeated: “Oh my God, oh my God.”
Luis Tomala was fishing with others when the earthquake struck. He said their boat started moving “like a racehorse, we got scared and when we turned on the radio we heard the earthquake”. Then his group, Tomala said, decided to stay at sea, fearing a tsunami.
A report from the Ecuadorian Adverse Events Monitoring Directorate ruled out a tsunami threat.
Peruvian authorities have reported that the old walls of an army barracks have collapsed in Tumbes.
Ecuador is particularly prone to earthquakes. In 2016, an earthquake centered further north on the Pacific coast in a less populated area of the country killed more than 600 people.
Machala student Kathryn Cruz said her home shook so hard she couldn’t even get up to leave her room and run out into the street.
“It was horrible. I’ve never felt anything like it in my life,” she said.