Earthquake hits Ecuador and Peru killing at least 14

Homes and health centres damaged and many roads are blocked by landslides

Destroyed buildings after an earthquake in the city of Machala, Ecuador. AFP
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At least 14 people were killed in a strong earthquake that shook a coastal region of Ecuador and Peru on Saturday, causing structural damage to homes, schools and medical centres.

The quake, which the US Geological Survey (USGS) measured at magnitude 6.8, struck at a depth of 66.4km (41.3 miles) and about 10km (6.2 miles) from the city of Balao in the province of Guayas.

“Emergency teams are mobilising to offer all their support to those who have been affected,” said Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso in a tweet.

Ecuador's presidency reported 11 dead in the province of El Oro and two in the province of Azuay. 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.

Homes, educational buildings and health centres had been damaged and many roads are blocked by landslides. The Santa Rosa airport suffered minor damage and remained open, the Ecuador presidency's communication agency said.

President Guillermo Lasso travelled to El Oro, where he visited the wounded in a hospital, and will next head to Azuay.

"I have just finished visiting the city of Machala ... I have ratified government support, the availability of resources," he said in a video posted on Twitter.

Ecuador's Secretariat of Risk Management said earlier that the death in Azuay province occurred when a wall collapsed on to a vehicle. In other provinces, structural damage included a collapsed pier and a collapsed wall in a supermarket.

The agency said that state-run oil company Petroecuador had evacuated and suspended activities in multiple facilities out of precaution, but had not reported damage.

“We all ran out into the streets … we were very scared,” said Ernesto Alvarado, a resident of Isla Puna near the epicentre.

The initial quake was followed by two weaker aftershocks in the following hour, according to the Geophysics Institute of Ecuador.

Peruvian authorities said that the quake was felt in the country's northern region, and that there were no immediate reports of harm to people or structures.

The earthquake did not appear likely to generate a tsunami, authorities said.

Updated: March 19, 2023, 3:35 AM