At least 12 people were killed, one was wounded and buildings were damaged in a powerful earthquake that shook Peru and Ecuador Saturday, Ecuador’s presidency said.
Destroyed buildings, crushed vehicles and debris could be seen in cities such as Machala and Cuenca in Ecuador, as rescue officials rushed to lend aid and panicked residents ran into the streets.
The quake, which the United States Geological Survey (USGS) put at magnitude 6.8 and a depth of nearly 41 miles (66 kilometers), struck at 12:12 local time (1712 GMT).
Its epicenter was in the Ecuadoran municipality of Balao, near the border with Peru, authorities said.
“I went out into the street because I saw people starting to run in panic, getting out of their cars,” Magaly Escandon, a sewing supplies saleswoman in Cuenca, told AFP.
“So far, 12 deaths are reported (11 in the province of El Oro and one in the province of Azuay),” Ecuador’s presidency said in a tweet.
The tremor was also strongly felt in other cities including Guayaquil, Quito, Manabi and Manta, social media reports said.
No casualties or major damage has been reported in Peru so far, where the quake appears to have been less intense.
Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso urged people to remain “calm and to be informed through official channels” about damage to buildings in a message on Twitter.
According to Quito’s Risk Management Office, the facade of a house collapsed on a vehicle and left “a deceased person” in Cuenca. AFP journalists in the city also reported that old houses in the historic center had been damaged.
Nearby, in the province of El Oro, three people were reported dead when a tower toppled and fatally crushed them.
“It is a relatively high magnitude for what we have in the country,” said Mario Ruiz, director of the Ecuadorian Geophysical Institute in an interview with FM Mundo radio.
Peruvian seismological authorities initially reported a magnitude of 7.0, but hours later downgraded the magnitude to 6.7.
Hernando Tavera, head of the National Seismological Center of Peru, assured RPP radio that “there is no significant damage to the structure or people” in the country.
A first aftershock of magnitude 4.8 was recorded in Balao, Ecuador. The Ecuadoran navy said there was no tsunami threat.