At least 15 dead, hundreds injured after 6.8-magnitude earthquake hits Ecuador

Damage following an earthquake in Ecuador.
Damage following an earthquake in Ecuador. GLEEN SUAREZ/AFP via Getty Images

At least 15 people are dead after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake rattled the coast of southern Ecuador on Saturday, causing widespread destruction.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the tremor struck around noon local time, with the epicenter occurring in the city of Baláo more than 41 miles under the Earth's surface. The USGS gave the earthquake an "orange alert," saying that "significant casualties are likely and the disaster is potentially widespread."

Eyewitness Exon Tobar told BBC News that the earthquake felt like "a very powerful explosion — it made it shake and it made the electric cables, the windows, and everything move. People were in the streets praying because it didn't stop."

The province of El Oro was the most badly damaged area, but swaths of destruction were seen across the country. The damage included 44 destroyed homes, 50 damaged schools, 31 damaged medical centers, and more, Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio reported — and this was just the initial tally.

The earthquake was felt as far away as northern Peru, but the country's authorities said "there were no immediate reports of harm to people or structures," per ReutersHowever, Ecuador was dealing with a decisively different outcome, as hundreds of people were reportedly injured.

In a statement on Twitter, the office of Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso said that the situation would continue to be monitored, and urged for calm as the recovery efforts got underway.

Ecuador is in a very seismically active part of the world, with tectonic activity often causing small shakes. However, massive seismic events such as this one do not happen all that often. The last major earthquake in the country occurred in 2016 and left nearly 700 people dead and more than 6,000 injured.

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