QUITO, Ecuador — A 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook the central coast of Ecuador on Saturday, killing at least 77 people, officials and news reports said. The effects could be felt as far away as the capital, Quito, which lies some 105 miles from the epicenter.
Vice President Jorge Glas said that in addition to the 77 dead, more than 570 people were wounded, The Associated Press reported.
The quake was centered 16 miles southeast of Muisne, Ecuador, the United States Geological Survey said.
Officials declared a nationwide state of exception, which gives the government expanded authority, and a state of emergency in six of the country’s 24 provinces. Deaths were reported in the northern provinces of Esmeraldas, Manabí and Guayas, along the northern border with Colombia.
Among the dead was a minor who fell down the stairs in a mall in Guayaquil, and another who died after the collapse of a bridge in the city, according to reports from the television station Teleamazonas.
Adriana Villacís, a 40-year-old nurse, was with her husband and 4-year-old son at a supermarket about 30 minutes from Quito when, she said, she began to see groceries fall to the floor.
The first thing I did was protect my son and look for the exit, but a part of the roof fell, and I was frozen,” she said. “Thank God we weren’t physically harmed, but the shock caused my child to vomit.”
In the Pedernales district, near the epicenter, a number of homes fell, causing damage to parked cars.
On Avenue Mariscal Sucre in northern Quito, signposts fell, causing panic among drivers. Jorge Espinel decided to park his car to avoid an accident.
“It was terrible, such a shock,” he said. “I don’t have words for what I felt.”
In Quito, where the shaking was reportedly felt for about 40 seconds and residents took to the streets in fear, the quake appeared to have knocked out electricity and cellphone coverage in several neighborhoods.
The city’s mayor, Mauricio Rodas, said there had been rockslides on roads leading to the capital and reports that the walls of houses had fallen. But, he said, no fatalities or injuries had been reported in the capital.
In the southern 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 was severely damaged.
President Rafael Correa urged people to show strength while he and the authorities monitored events.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that the tsunami threat from the earthquake had mostly passed.
The quake, which occurred around nightfall, had a depth of nearly 12 miles. Several aftershocks, some as strong as magnitude 5.6, continued after the initial quake.
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