An earthquake which measured magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale hit the central coast of Ecuador on Saturday killing at least 77 people. The quake shook cities more than 100 miles away.
According to U.S. National Geological Survey, the epicenter of the quake lay 16 miles south-southeast of the coastal town of Muisne, located on the country’s northwestern coast.
The quake was recorded at a depth of about 12 miles. Calling the death figures of 77 dead as preliminary, Ecuador’s Vice President Jorge Glas said the figures could rise as details start trickling from remote regions. President Rafael Correa declared a state of national emergency and expressed condolence for those killed.
A person was killed when an overpass collapsed and crushed a car in Guayaquil, located 200 miles to the south of Muisne.
Videos shot by amateurs have been posted online and showed heavy damage to the shopping mall in Portoviejo and residents rushing out in the open after alarm bells rang. Another video showed a hotel in Manta partially collapsed, and buildings shook to the ground in Guayaquil.
NOAA’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center had earlier warned of possible tsunami waves 3 feet above tide levels but has now downgraded the warnings and said that there is no threat of a Pacific-wide tsunami. The threat has largely passed.
The earthquake was initially labeled as a magnitude-7.4 quake, but the U.S. National Geological Survey later upgraded it to a 7.8.
Ecuador’s Geophysics Institute in a release said that there has been large-scale damage in the areas around the epicenter and Guayaquil. More than 10,000 military troops and 3,500 police have been requisitioned to help with rescue efforts in the affected regions.
The quake has been described by experts as one of the biggest too hit the country since 1979. Provinces of Manabi, Santa Elena, Guayas, Esmeraldas, Santo Domingo, and Los Rios haver been worst hit and a state of emergency has been declared in these provinces. .