Magnitude 6.8 earthquake hits South American country's coastal Guayas region, killing at least 15 people, including 1 in Peru, officials say.
A strong earthquake has shaken southern Ecuador and northern Peru, killing at least 15 people, trapping others under rubble, and sending rescue teams out into streets littered with debris and fallen power lines.
The US Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 in the country's coastal Guayas region on Saturday.
One of the victims died in Peru, while 14 others died in Ecuador, where authorities also reported that at least 126 people were injured.
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso told reporters the earthquake had "without a doubt ... generated alarm in 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 highlands state of Azuay.
The quake was centered about 80 kilometres south of Guayaquil, which anchors a metro area of over three million people.
In the community of Machala, a two-story home collapsed before people could evacuate, a pier gave way and a building's walls cracked, trapping an unknown number of people.
In Guayaquil, about 270 kilometres southwest of the capital, Quito, authorities reported cracks on buildings and homes, as well as some collapsed walls. Authorities ordered the closure of three vehicular tunnels.
Videos shared on social media show people gathered on the streets of Guayaquil and nearby communities. People reported objects falling inside their homes.
One video posted online showed three anchors of a show dart from their studio desk as the set shook. They initially tried to shake it off as a minor quake but soon fled off camera. One anchor indicated the show would go on a commercial break, while another repeated, "My God, my God."
The earthquake was felt in more than half of the country's 24 provinces, the Secretariat said.
In pictures: Ecuador says powerful earthquake led to structural damage in several provinces and was felt in more than half of the country's 24 provinces— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) March 18, 2023
For more: https://t.co/JGCZ4zXO7f pic.twitter.com/Q4gSAsSbdP
'We all ran out into the streets'
Ecuador President Lasso tweeted a message asking residents to remain calm.
A pier sank in the city of Machala.
"We all ran out into the streets... we were very scared," said Ernesto Alvarado, a resident of Isla Puna, an island near the epicentre, adding that some homes had collapsed.
The initial quake was followed by two weaker aftershocks in the following hour, according to the Geophysics Institute of Ecuador.
The earthquake was also felt in Peru, from its northern border with Ecuador to the central Pacific coast.
In the northern region of Tumbes, the old walls of an Army barracks collapsed, authorities said.
Prone to earthquakes
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there is no threat of a tsunami.
Ecuador is particularly prone to earthquakes.
In 2016, a quake centered farther north on the Pacific Coast in a more sparsely populated area of the country killed more than 600 people.