Ecuador earthquake: Residents question buildings after quake kills 15

People across southern Ecuador and northern Peru were digging out from rubble and picking up the pieces of shattered lives Sunday after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake killed 15 people on Saturday.

Juan Vera of the Ecuadorian coastal town of Machala lost three family members when their house collapsed.

“That building should have been demolished already,” Vera said outside the morgue in Machala. “The mayor’s office is the entity that has to regulate these things through its planning departments so that the buildings are in good condition to be rented out or inhabited.”

Elsewhere in Machala, five people were killed in a similar home collapse, according to neighbor Dolores Vaca. Vaca said she ran outside her own home when the shaking began and barely made it out before “everything fell apart, the house flattened, everything was lost.”

Earthquakes are relatively common in the region — a magnitude 7.8 quake killed more than 600 people in Ecuador in 2016 — but buildings in and around the coastal city of Guayaquil were not prepared for Saturday’s shaking.

An estimated 300 buildings were damaged in the latest earthquake. The epicenter was about 50 miles south of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second-most populous city, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Architect Germán Narváez, who works in the capital city of Quito, said many of the destroyed buildings were old and lacked solid foundations.

“At critical moments of seismic movements, they tend to collapse,” he explained.

Fourteen of the 15 earthquake victims lived in Ecuador, according to authorities. One of the victims was a 4-year-old Peruvian girl who died from head trauma when her family’s home collapsed. At least 450 people were injured in the chaos.

Pope Francis offered his prayers for the victims and survivors during his Sunday noon blessing.

“I’m close to the Ecuadorian people and assure them of my prayers for the dead and suffering,” the Pope said.

With News Wire Services