Quito: At least 14 people were killed in a strong earthquake that shook a coastal region of Ecuador and northern Peru midday Saturday, causing structural damage to multiple homes, schools and medical centers.
"All the ministries are activated and have sufficient economic resources to immediately repair earthquake damage," said Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso in a statement.
The quake, which the US Geological Survey (USGS) measured at magnitude 6.8, struck at a depth of 66.4 km (41.3 miles) about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the city of Balao in the province of Guayas.
The earthquake did not appear likely to generate a tsunami, authorities said.
More than 120 people injured
One of the victims died in Peru, while 14 others died in Ecuador, where authorities also reported that at least 126 people were injured.
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.
The presidency's communication agency said at least seven homes were destroyed, while 50 more were damaged. Around 20 educational buildings and more than 30 health centers were also affected and multiple roadways were blocked by landslides caused by the earthquake.
The agency said firefighters worked to rescue people while the National Police assessed damage, their work made more difficult by downed lines that interrupted telephone and electricity service.
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.
Ecuador's Secretariat of Risk Management said in an earlier statement that the death in Azuay province occurred when a wall collapsed on to a vehicle. In other provinces, structural damage included a collapsed wharf and a fallen wall in a supermarket.
The agency said that state-run oil company Petroecuador had evacuated and suspended activities in multiple facilities out of precaution, but had not reported damage.
The Santa Rosa airport suffered minor damage, but remained in operation.
"We all ran out into the streets... we were very scared," Ernesto Alvarado, a resident of Isla Puna near the epicenter, told Reuters, adding that some homes had collapsed.
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.”
Machala resident Fabricio Cruz said he was in his third-floor apartment when he felt a strong tremor and saw his television hit the ground. He immediately headed out.
“I heard how my neighbours were shouting 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 nearby houses.
Luis Tomalá was fishing with others when the earthquake struck. He said their boat began moving “like a racehorse, we got scared, and when we turned on the radio, we heard about the earthquake.” That’s when his group, Tomalá said, decided to stay at sea fearing a tsunami could develop.
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.
The initial quake was followed by two weaker aftershocks in the following hour, according to the Geophysics Institute of Ecuador.
Peruvian authorities said that the quake was felt in the country's northern region, and that there were no immediate reports of harm to people or structures.
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.