At least twelve people died on Saturday March 18 during a major earthquake in southern Ecuador, according to an official report. The American Seismological Institute USGS specified that its magnitude had reached 6.8.
The earthquake also injured at least one person and caused material damage. It occurred at 12:12 p.m. with an epicenter in the town of Balao at a depth of 44 kilometers, according to authorities. It caused panic among residents who took to the streets. Homes have collapsed in several towns, including Cuenca, one of the hardest hit.
“I went out into the street because I saw people running, terrified, others getting out of cars”tells Agence France-Presse Magaly Escandón, a seller of sewing items in this Andean city.
In the historic center of Cuenca, old houses were damaged, AFP journalists reported. The earthquake was also felt in Quito, Manabi and Manta, according to accounts on social media. Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso launched a “call for calm and information through official channels” in a post on Twitter.
In Peru, where the earthquake was smaller, no casualties or major damage have been reported so far.
According to the Oceanographic and Antarctic Institute of the Ecuadorian Navy, the tremor “does not meet the conditions likely to generate a tsunami” in the Pacific.