Earthquake in Ecuador kills at least 12, causes wide damage

A strong earthquake shook the region around Ecuador’s second-largest city on Saturday, killing at least 12 people, damaging homes and buildings, and sending panicked residents into the streets.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 in the country’s coastal Guayas region. It was centered about 50 miles south of Guayaquil, which anchors a metro area of over 3 million people.

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso in a televised address to the nation said the earthquake killed 12 people.

Solange Coyago was in an apartment in Cuenca and about to go to lunch when the windows started shaking and the lights began to move really fast.

“I was really scared,” she told “NBC Nightly News.” “Everyone outside was in the streets … [it] was a really tough moment.”

After the earthquake stopped, Coyago, who was visiting the city on vacation, said she had a panic attack.

“Everything in my mind was blind. I started shaking,” she said.

Rescue workers stand next to a car crushed by debris after an earthquake
Rescue workers stand next to a car crushed by debris after an earthquake in Cuenca, Ecuador, on Saturday.Xavier Caivinagua / AP

The South American country’s emergency response agency, the Risk Management Secretariat, reported one person died in the Andean community of Cuenca. The victim was a passenger in a vehicle trapped under the rubble of a house. Three other people died in the coastal state of El Oro, the agency reported.

In Guayaquil, about 170 miles 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.

Coyago said her apartment did not have a lot of damage, but some buildings nearby have partially collapsed.

“The police officers are saying please don’t walk around here because in every moment this is going to come down,” she said. “Right now, the streets are closed, some of them.”

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.”

A pier sank in the city of Machala. The earthquake was also felt in northern Peru.

Associated Press contributed.