A strong earthquake shook southern Ecuador and northern Peru on Saturday, killing at least 15 people, trapping others under rubble, and sending rescue teams out into streets littered with debris and fallen power lines.
The US Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of about 6.8 in the country’s coastal Guayas region. Its centre was about 50 miles (80km) south of Guayaquil, which has a metropolitan area of more than 3 million people.
The Ecuadorian president, Guillermo Lasso, said the earthquake had “without a doubt … generated alarm in the population” and he asked in a tweet for people to reman calm.
Twelve of the victims died in the coastal state of El Oro and two in the highlands state of Azuay, the president’s office said in a statement. Authorities reported that at least 126 people were injured.
The Peruvian prime minister, Alberto Otárola, said a four-year-old girl had died from head trauma she suffered in the collapse of her home in the Tumbes region, on the border with Ecuador.
One of the Azuay victims, in the Andean community of Cuenca, was a passenger in a vehicle crushed by rubble from a house, Ecuador’s emergency response agency said.
In the coastal province of El Oro, people were trapped under rubble, the agency reported. In the community of Machala, a two-storey home collapsed before people could be evacuated, a pier gave way and a building’s walls cracked, trapping an unknown number of people.
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.
The emergency response 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 services.
Ecuador’s government also reported damages to healthcare centres and schools. Lasso said he would travel on Saturday to El Oro.
In Guayaquil, about 170 miles south-west of the capital, Quito, authorities reported cracks on buildings and homes, as well as some collapsed walls. Authorities ordered the closure of three vehicle tunnels.
Videos shared on social media show people gathered on the streets of Guayaquil and nearby communities, and people reported objects falling inside their homes.
One video posted online showed three TV presenters darting from their studio desk as their set shook. They initially tried to dismiss the tremors as a minor quake but soon fled off camera. One anchor indicated the show would go to a commercial break, while another repeated: “My God, my God.”
A report from Ecuador’s adverse events monitoring directorate ruled out a tsunami threat.
The earthquake was also felt in Peru, from its northern border with Ecuador to the central Pacific coast. No deaths or injuries were immediately 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, a quake centred farther north on the Pacific Coast in a more sparsely populated area of the country killed more than 600 people.