Ecuador earthquake: What we know so far

An overpass buckled in the city of Guayaquil, crushing a car. Credit: RTV

Nearly 80 people are believed to have died after an earthquake hit the pacific coast of Ecuador on Saturday night.

Here's what we know so far.

  • What happened?

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the pacific coast just off of Ecuador at 6.58pm local time (11.58pm GMT).

The epicentre of the quake was on the northern coast near the town of Muisne, and measured at a shallow depth of 11.9 miles, according to the US Geological Survey.

President Rafael Correa has declared a state of emergency and has cut short a trip to the Vatican to coordinate rescue efforts.

  • How many people have died?

Vice-President Jorge Glas has said that 77 people have died, and a further 588 injured, but it's expected that the death toll will rise.

Glas has called for calm in cities that have been affected, with thousands of troops and police officers mobilised where looting had broken out.

"Everything can be rebuilt, but lost lives cannot be recovered, and that's what hurts the most," President Correra told Ecuador's state television channel from Rome.

"The material part is the least important, what is fundamental is guaranteeing human life."

People stand on the debris of a building in Manta, Ecuador. Credit: Reuters/Paul Ochoa
  • How much damage has been done?

According to reports, some small towns have been almost flattened by the quake, and the quake was so strong that a bridge 190 miles away was destroyed.

People in the capital Quito 105 miles away could also feel the earthquake, and the city was left without power or phone services for several hours.

"I'm in a state of panic," Quito resident Zoila Villena told the Press Association.

"My building moved a lot and things fell to the floor. Lots of neighbours were screaming and kids crying."

Pedernales, a popular tourist spot with idyllic palm tree-lined beaches, is one of the worst affected areas.

"There are villages that are totally devastated," Pedernales' major Gabriel Alcivar, said in a radio interview, adding that "dozens and dozens" had died in the rustic zone.

"What happened here in Pedernales is catastrophic."

Patients were evacuated from a clinic in Cali, Colombia - around 300 miles away Credit: Reuters/Jaime Saldarriaga
  • How bad is the earthquake?

There have been 55 aftershocks since the first big earthquake, which was stronger than the Japanese earthquake earlier this week.

It's the worst earthquake Ecuador has seen in decades - the last major earthquake to hit the country killed 600 people and injured 20,000 in 1979.

There have been reports of the earthquake being felt from as far away as Colombia, which lies around 300 miles away from epicentre.

  • How are people coping?

There are reports of looting amid the chaos, with emergency services too busy rescuing people to maintain order.

Some people are leaving cities and heading out to safer places, anticipating further shock-waves and damage to buildings.

Ramon Solorzano, 46, who lives in the coastal city of Manta, told Reuters that he was leaving with his family, and others are doing the same.

"Most people are out in the streets with backpacks on, heading for higher ground," he said, speaking in a trembling voice on a WhatsApp phone call. "The streets are cracked. The power is out and phones are down."