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Magnitude 6.8 earthquake shakes Ecuador, at least four deaths reported By Reuters

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© Reuters. A damaged car and rubble from a house affected by the earthquake are pictured in Cuenca, Ecuador. March 18, 2023. REUTERS/Rafa Idrovo Espinoza

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QUITO (Reuters) -A magnitude 6.8 earthquake shook a coastal region of Ecuador and northern Peru midday Saturday, leaving at least four people dead and resulting in some structural damage.

“I call for calm and for people to get informed through official channels,” said Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso in a tweet.

The quake, which the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) measured at magnitude 6.8, struck at a depth of 66.4 km (41.3 miles) about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the city of Balao in the province of Guayas.

The earthquake did not appear likely to generate a tsunami, authorities said.

Ecuador’s Secretariat of Risk Management said in a statement that a wall had collapsed onto a vehicle, killing one person, in the city of Cuenca. In the community of Machala, three people were killed and multiple structures collapsed, including a two-story home and a wharf, while multiple communities lost power.

The earthquake also led to structural damage in two other provinces, including a collapsed wall in a supermarket, and was felt in more than half of the country’s 24 provinces, the Secretariat said.

The agency said that state-run oil company Petroecuador had evacuated and suspended activities in multiple facilities out of precaution, but had not reported damage.

“We all ran out into the streets… we were very scared,” said Ernesto Alvarado, a resident of Isla Puna, an island near the epicenter, adding that some homes had collapsed.

The initial quake was followed by two weaker aftershocks in the following hour, according to the Geophysics Institute of Ecuador.

Peruvian authorities said that the quake was felt in the country’s northern region, and that there were no immediate reports of harm to people or structures.

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