April 16, 2016

ECUADOR: A Powerful 7.8 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Ecuador's Coastal Region, Killing 28.

The Los Angeles Times, USA
written by AP staff
Saturday April 16, 2016

A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Ecuador's central coast Saturday, killing at least 28 people and spreading panic as far away as the Andean capital of Quito as it collapsed homes and rattled buildings.

The quake, the strongest in decades to hit Ecuador, was reported at 4:58 p.m. Pacific time, 17 miles from Muisne, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was centered in a sparsely populated area of fishing ports popular with tourists. The depth was recorded at 12.4 miles.

Vice President Jorge Glas said in a televised address that there were initial reports of 28 dead in the cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Guayaquil. Among those killed was the driver of a car crushed by an overpass that buckled in Guayaquil, the country's most populous city.

On social media residents shared photos of homes collapsed, the roof of a shopping center coming apart and supermarket shelves shaking violently. In Manta, the airport was closed after the control tower sustained severe damage. Guayaquil's international airport was also closed because of a lack of communications.

President Rafael Correa, who was in the Vatican after attending a papal conference, called on Ecuadoreans to show strength while he and authorities monitored events.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said hazardous tsunami waves were possible for some coasts. While the government’s natural disaster agency hadn't issued a tsunami alert, Glas urged residents along the coast to move to higher ground. Towns near the epicenter were also being evacuated as a precautionary measure. An emergency had been declared in six provinces, Glas said.

"It's very important that Ecuadoreans remain calm during this emergency," he said.

The earthquake shook buildings in the capital for about 40 seconds, and many people fled into the streets. It knocked out electricity and cellphone coverage in several neighborhoods there. Quito is about 107 miles from the quake's epicenter.

"I'm in a state of panic," said Zoila Villena, one of many Quito residents who congregated in the streets. "My building moved a lot and things fell to the floor. Lots of neighbors were screaming and kids [were] crying."

Several aftershocks, some as strong as 5.6, continued in the hour after the first quake, which occurred at nightfall.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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