Massive earthquake damages buildings, crushes vehicles in Peru, Ecuador

At least 12 people were killed, one injured and buildings damaged in a powerful earthquake that struck Peru and Ecuador on Saturday.

Damaged buildings, crushed vehicles and debris could be seen in cities such as Machala and Cuenca in Ecuador, as rescue officials rushed to help and panicked residents fled into the streets.

The earthquake, which the United States Geological Survey (USGS) put at a magnitude of 6.8 and a depth of about 41 miles (66 kilometers), occurred at 12:12 local time (1712 GMT).

Officials said its epicenter was in the Ecuadorian municipality of Balao, near the Peruvian border.

“I went out into the street because I saw people getting out of their cars in panic,” Magali Escandón, a woman who supplies sewing supplies in Cuenca, told AFP.

“So far 12 deaths have been reported (11 in El Oro province and one in Azuay province),” Ecuador’s president said in a tweet.

Social media reports said tremors were also felt in other cities, including Guayaquil, Quito, Manabi and Manta.

No casualties or major damage have been reported so far in Peru, where the earthquake appeared to be less severe.

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso urged people to “remain calm and be informed through official channels” in a message on Twitter.

According to Quito’s risk management office, the facade of a house in Cuenca fell on a vehicle and left “one dead”. AFP reporters in the city also reported that old houses in the historic center had been damaged.

Nearby, in El Oro province, three people were reported killed when a tower collapsed and severely crushed them.

“It’s a relatively high magnitude for what we have in the country,” said Mario Ruiz, director of the Ecuadorian Geophysical Institute, in an interview with FM Mundo radio.

Peruvian seismological officials initially reported a magnitude of 7.0, but reduced the magnitude to 6.7 hours later.

Hernando Tavera, head of Peru’s National Seismological Center, assured RPP radio that “there has been no significant damage to structures or people” in the country.

The first aftershock of magnitude 4.8 was recorded in Balao, Ecuador. The Ecuadorian Navy said there was no danger of a tsunami.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and was auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)