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Magnitude 6.8 earthquake in Ecuador kills at least 12, causes widespread damage

A magnitude 6.8 earthquake off the coast of Ecuador caused widespread damage and killed at least 12 people.

The earthquake that struck Saturday afternoon, affected southern Ecuador and northern Peru. People were trapped beneath rubble as rescue teams were sent out into streets flooded by downed power lines.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the quake was off the Pacific Coast, about 50 miles south of Ecuador’s second-largest city, Guayaquil.

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso took to Twitter to urge people to stay calm. He said he’d ordered the country’s emergency management officials to “evaluate the effects produced by the earthquake,” which he said affected affected Balao, an area of Guayas state.

“I call for calm and information through official channels,” Lasso said.

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Ecuador’s Risk Management Secretariat, which serves as the country’s emergency response agency, confirmed that one victim was a passenger in a car struck by rubble from a crumbling home in the Andean community of Cuenca.

Three other people died in the coastal state of El Oro, after being trapped under rubble.

A police officer looks up next to a car crushed by debris after an earthquake shook Cuenca, Ecuador, Saturday, March 18, 2023. The U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 on Saturday about 50 miles south of Guayaquil .(AP Photo/Xavier Caivinagua)

The agency said firefighters were actively working on the ground as police continued to assess damage, but that rescue efforts were strained by downed power lines that knocked out electricity and phone service.

Authorities also decided to close three major vehicular tunnels in Guayaquil, which is home to more than three million people.

Ecuador’s Adverse Events Monitoring Directorate announced that it had ruled out a tsunami threat.

Ecuador is accustomed to dealing with earthquakes, tsunamis and even volcanic eruptions, as it is situated in an area of high seismic activity. A 2016 quake in a coastal area further north caused more than 600 deaths.

With News Wire Services

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