© Reuters. A damaged car and the rubble of an earthquake-affected house are pictured in Cuenca, Ecuador. March 18, 2023. REUTERS/Rafa Idrovo Espinoza
By Alexandra Valencia
QUITO (Reuters) – At least 14 people were killed in a strong earthquake that shook a coastal region of Ecuador and northern Peru on Saturday, causing structural damage to several homes, schools and medical centers.
The quake, which the US Geological Survey (USGS) measured at a magnitude of 6.8, struck at a depth of 66.4 km (41.3 miles) about 10 km (6.2 miles) from the town of Balao in the province of Guayas.
The quake does not appear likely to generate a tsunami, authorities said.
“We remain in the territory to verify the damage caused by the earthquake this morning. I want to confirm that I am with you and express my solidarity and my commitment to the victims,” Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso said in a tweet.
The presidential communications agency said the quake left 14 people dead and more than 380 injured, mostly in El Oro province.
The agency said at least 44 homes were destroyed, while 90 others were damaged. About 50 school buildings and more than 30 health centers were also affected, while several roads were blocked by landslides caused by the earthquake. Santa Rosa Airport suffered minor damage, but remained in service.
The Ecuadorian Risk Management Secretariat said in an earlier statement that one death in Azuay province occurred when a wall collapsed on a vehicle. In other provinces, structural damage included a collapsed dock and a fallen wall in a supermarket.
State oil company Petroecuador had evacuated and suspended operations at several facilities as a precaution, but did not report any damage, the agency said.
“We all ran into the streets… we were very scared,” Ernesto Alvarado, a resident of Isla Puna near the epicenter, told Reuters, adding that some houses had collapsed.
The initial quake was followed by two weaker aftershocks within an hour, according to Ecuador’s Institute of Geophysics.
Peruvian authorities said the earthquake was felt in the northern region of the country, but there were no immediate reports of damage to people or structures.