Two South American countries are bereaved by an earthquake. At least 14 people died and several were injured Saturday in an earthquake in southern Ecuador that caused extensive damage and also hit neighboring Peru.

According to the US Seismological Institute USGS, the magnitude of the earthquake reached 6.8. Ecuadorian authorities have estimated the magnitude at 6.5, and those of Peru at 6.7. The presidency of Ecuador reported 13 dead, including 11 in the province of El Oro and two in that of Azuay, in the southwest of the country, and several wounded, without specifying the number. In the Peruvian town of Tumbes, on the border with Ecuador, a four-year-old girl was killed by a brick that fell on her head.

People were "running, screaming, crying"

The earthquake occurred at 12:12 p.m., at a depth of 44 km, with the epicenter of the city of Balao, about 140 km south of the major port of Guayaquil. It caused panic among residents who took to the streets. Homes collapsed in several cities, including Cuenca (Azuay province), one of the worst affected. "I went out into the street because I saw people running terrified, others getting out of cars," said Magaly Escandón, a sewing saleswoman in the Andean city. "They were running, they were screaming, they were crying."

In the historic center of Cuenca, buildings collapsed, old houses damaged, walls cracked and vehicles crushed by debris. Several streets in the city were blocked due to landslides caused by the earthquake. The earthquake was also felt as far away as the capital Quito, according to testimonies on social networks.

Ecuadorian president on the spot

"I appeal for calm and to be informed through official channels," tweeted Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso, who immediately went to El Oro province and then headed to the city of Cuenca to "see the damage caused by the earthquake."

"This is a relatively high magnitude for (...) the country," Mario Ruiz, director of the Ecuadorian Geophysical Institute, said in an interview with local FM Mundo radio. "In the Gulf of Guayaquil region, we have had since 2017 (...) about two earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 5.0 per year," he said. "After 12:13 p.m., the largest aftershock occurred at 12:22 p.m.," he added, noting that there had been eight aftershocks in total. 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.

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