A strong 6.8-magnitude earthquake (as the U.S. Geological Survey reported) occurred off the coast of Ecuador Saturday, around 12:22 p.m. local time, being felt in 13 provinces. A second quake followed after six minutes. Both were about 18 miles from the town Balao, in the Guayas province. Aftershocks were recorded in the following hour. At least 16 people dead (one of them, a 4-year-old girl, in Peru) and a search and rescue operation is ongoing as others were trapped under rubble. Hundreds were injured. Many buildings collapsed.
Some health care centers and schools were also affected. Downed lines interrupted telephone and electricity service. People gathered on the streets. Authorities ordered the closure of three vehicular tunnels in Guayaquil, which anchors a metro area of over 3 million people. A tsunami threat warning was issued by Ecuador’s Adverse Events Monitoring Directorate. Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso was set to travel on the affected areas to evaluate situation. Earthquakes with victims previously occurred in Ecuador. In 2016 more tha 600 people were killed on the Pacific Coast.