After a powerful earthquake hit Ecuador’s southern coast, at least 12 people died.
Many buildings were damaged in multiple cities after the 6.7 magnitude earthquake, which occurred at approximately noon local time (17:00 GMT).
El Oro, the southern province of El Salvador was most severely affected. Emergency services reported that people were still trapped in their homes due to collapsed walls.
Authorities said eleven people died in El Oro, and one in Azuay.
Machala and Cuenca were among the cities that suffered damage to buildings and vehicles, as emergency services rushed to help people.
The epicenter was near Balao, about 50 miles (80km) from Ecuador’s second-largest city, Guayaquil, where about three million people live.
“I went out into the street because I saw people starting to run in panic, getting out of their cars,” Magaly Escandon, a business owner in Cuenca, told the AFP news agency.
President Guillermo Lasso asked Ecuadoreans to remain calm as officials assess the damage.
“Emergency teams are mobilizing to offer all their support to those who have been affected,” he said.
Mr. Lasso’s office also confirmed that injured people were being treated in the hospital, but did not offer any further details.
Several roads have been blocked by landslides, while several homes, educational buildings, and health centers have been damaged, authorities said.
One person was reported killed in the city of Cuenca after a wall collapsed onto their car, while three people died when a security camera tower came down on Jambelí Island.
There have also been reports of the earthquake being felt in several other cities, including Manabi, Manta, and the capital Quito.
This is the strongest quake to hit Ecuador since 2016 when nearly 700 people died and thousands were injured.
Officials in Peru say the quake was felt in northern regions of the country, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.