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Magnitude 6.8 earthquake shakes Ecuador and Peru, at least 14 deaths reported

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A damaged car and rubble from a house affected by the earthquake are pictured in Cuenca, Ecuador, March 18, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

At least 14 people have been killed, scores wounded and buildings 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 teams 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.

The presidency's communication agency said the quake left 11 people dead in the province of El Oro and two fatalities in Azuay province. More than 120 people were injured.

The 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 Santa Rosa airport suffered minor damage, but remained in operation.

The tremor was also strongly felt in other cities, including Guayaquil, Quito, Manabi and Manta, social media reports said.

In the Peruvian city of Tumbes on the border with Ecuador, a four-year-old girl died after a brick hit her on the head, according to an official report.

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.

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.

(Source: Agencies)

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