CUENCA: At least 14 people were killed, several were wounded and buildings were damaged in a powerful earthquake that shook Peru and Ecuador on Saturday (Mar 18), authorities said.
Destroyed buildings, crushed vehicles and debris could be seen in cities such as Machala and Cuenca in Ecuador, as rescue officials rushed to lend aid and panicked residents ran into the streets.
The quake, which the United States Geological Survey (USGS) put at a magnitude of 6.8 and a depth of nearly 66km, struck at 12.12pm local time.
Its epicentre was in the Ecuadoran municipality of Balao, near the border with Peru, authorities said.
"I went out into the street because I saw people starting to run in panic, getting out of their cars," Magaly Escandon, a sewing supplies saleswoman in Cuenca, told AFP.
Ecuador's presidency reported 13 dead – 11 in the province of El Oro and two in the province of Azuay.
In the Peruvian city of Tumbes on the border with Ecuador, a four-year-old girl died after a brick hit her on the head, according to an official report.
"There where the pool of blood is, I was playing with my niece and a brick fell on her," her uncle David Alvarado told AFP.
The tremor was also strongly felt in other cities including Guayaquil, Quito, Manabi and Manta, social media reports said.
Ecuador's presidency reported that "there are injured people who are being treated promptly in hospitals", but did not provide any figures.
President Guillermo Lasso travelled to El Oro, where he visited the wounded in a hospital, and will next head to Azuay.
"I have just finished visiting the city of Machala ... I have ratified government support, the availability of resources," he said in a video posted on Twitter.
Earlier in the day he urged people to remain "calm and to be informed through official channels" about damage to buildings.