Rescue workers stand before a destroyed car after the collapse of a bridge in an earthquake in Guayaquil, Ecuador, April 16, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
A powerful, 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Ecuador’s central coast on Sunday, cracking buildings and rattling homes as far away as the capital of Quito.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered 27 kilometres south-southeast of Muisne, Ecuador, in a sparsely populated area of fishing ports popular with tourists. It had a depth of 19 kilometres. It originally put the quake at a magnitude of 7.4 then raised it to 7.8.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said hazardous tsunami waves are possible for some coasts.
Emergency services have ruled there is no tsunami threat to New Zealand.
New Zealand authorities were alerted to the possible risk of a tsunami to its coastline after the earthquake.
The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management have deemed there is no risk to New Zealand.
In the capital, the quake was felt for about 40 seconds and people fled buildings to the streets in fear. Quito is located about 170 kilometres from the quake’s epicenter. The quake appeared to have knocked out electricity and cellphone coverage in several neighborhoods in the capitalLocal media reported that at least one house and an overpass had collapsed in the port city of Guayaquil.
Photos of shopping centers in Quito with their roofs collapsing were seen on social media but authorities said they were still surveying the damage and there had been no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.
Several aftershocks, some as strong as 5.6 on the Richter scale, continued in the hour after the first quake, which occurred at nightfall.
At least 41 people have lost their lives in Ecuador following a strong earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale that struck off the northwest Pacific coast late on Saturday.
“Sadly the information we currently have is that 41 citizens have lost their lives in this emergency… This death toll will unfortunately rise in the coming hours,” Glas said in televised comments.
Noting that a state of emergency has been declared in the six worst-hit provinces, he added that police, the military and emergency services “are in a state of maximum alert to protect the lives of citizens.”
Most of the victims were killed in the cities of Portoviejo, Manta and two in the province of Guayas, according to Glas.
Towns near the epicenter were also being evacuated as a precautionary measure.Ecuador’s Geophysics Institute said in a bulletin that the quake, which struck at a depth of 20 kilometers (12 miles), had caused “considerable damage” in the area of the epicenter and in the city of Guayaquil.
Nearly 10 minutes prior to the 7.8 tremor, the same area was hit by a 4.8-magnitude quake. The Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency issued a warning, saying that powerful aftershocks were possible for the next 24 hours.
The tremor shook buildings dozens of kilometers away in the capital, Quito, and some other cities across the country.
A number of areas in Quito were without power or telephone service for several hours. Photos on social media showed cracks in the walls of buildings, but officials in the capital said there were no reports of casualties in the city.
The government has mobilized the national guard and the police to help in rescue operations.
Tsunami warnings were also issued following the quake for local coasts in Ecuador and the northern parts of neighboring Peru.
Pedro Merizalde, head of state oil company Petroecuador, told Reuters that the country’s 110,000 barrel-per-day Esmeraldas refinery has been halted as a precautionary measure following the quake.