Magnitude 7.8 earthquake hits Ecuador

la-ecuador-quake-20160416A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Ecuador’s central coast on Saturday, cracking buildings and rattling homes as far away as the capital of Quito.

The quake 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.

In the port city of Guayaquil, an overpass collapsed on top of a car and the roof of a shopping center buckled. 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 called on Ecuadoreans to show strength while he and authorities monitored events. There were no immediate reports of deaths or major injuries.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said hazardous tsunami waves are possible for some coasts but the government’s natural disaster agency didn’t issue a tsunami alert.

The earthquake shook buildings in the capital for about 40 seconds, and many people fled into the streets. It appeared to have knocked out electricity and cell phone 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 on the Richter scale, continued in the hour after the first quake, which occurred at nightfall. (Associated Press)

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