A strong earthquake rocked the region around Ecuador’s second-largest city on Saturday, killing at least 15 people, damaging homes and buildings and sending panicked residents onto the streets.
The US Geological Survey reported a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in the coastal region of Guayas. It was centered about 50 miles south of Guayaquil, which anchors a metropolitan area of more than 3 million people.
One of the victims died in Peru, while 14 others died in Ecuador, where authorities also reported at least 126 people were injured.
Solange Coyago was in an apartment in Cuenca, Ecuador, and about to go to lunch when the windows started shaking and the lights started moving really fast.
“I was really scared,” she told “NBC Nightly News.” “Everyone outside was in the street… [it] was a really tough time.
After the quake stopped, Coyago, who was visiting the city on vacation, said she had a panic attack.
“Everything in my mind was blind. I started shaking,” she said.
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso told reporters that the earthquake had “without a doubt (…) alarmed the population”. Lasso’s office in a statement said 12 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 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 sustained when her house collapsed in the Tumbes region on the border with Ecuador.
In Guayaquil, about 270 km southwest of the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, authorities reported cracks on buildings and houses, as well as collapsed walls. Authorities have ordered the closure of three vehicle tunnels.
Videos shared on social media show people gathered in the streets of Guayaquil and nearby communities. People have reported fallen items inside their homes.
Coyago said the apartment where she was staying did not have much damage, but some nearby buildings partially collapsed.
“The police are saying please don’t walk around here because any moment it’s going to fall,” she said. “Right now the streets are closed, some of them.”
A video posted online showed three presenters of a show jumping out of their studio office while everything was shaking. They first tried to shake off a minor earthquake, but quickly ran away from the camera. One presenter indicated that the show would take a commercial break, while another repeated, “My God, my God.”
A pier sank in the town of Machala. The earthquake was also felt in northern Peru.