Earthquake rocks Quito, causing minor damage and killing at least three; some still trapped in illegal mine

Aug 12, 2014

A magnitude-5.1 earthquake rocked Quito and the surrounding areas early Tuesday afternoon, causing tall buildings to sway and sending some people rushing into the streets. The government said three people were confirmed dead and eight injured outside Quito. A a 4.1 aftershock occurred an hour after the initial shock.

The Department of Risk Management said the casualties were in the Catequilla area 7 miles (12 kilometers) north of the capital near the country's monument marking the Equator. It did not say how the deaths and injuries occurred.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered 14 miles (23 kilometers) northeast of Quito at a depth of 4 miles (7 kilometers).

Quito Mayor Mauricio Rodas confirmed that one person died and four others are trapped in a mine in the Mount Catequilla are due to a landslide. "Rescue brigades are working there but accessibility is limited, and the ground is unstable," he said.

Rhodes added that the mines "are apparently illegal but we are waiting for more information to verify this."

Elsewhere, a child died when a bag of rice fell on her.

There were no reports of widespread damage, but officials said some roads were blocked by small landslides. The PanAmerican highway was briefly closed due to rock falls but reopened Tuesday afternoon.

 Authorities halted operations at the capital Tababela airport as a precaution because of a thick layer of dust thrown up into the sky around Quito.

Earthquakes are not uncommon to Quito and northern Ecuador and the city has been severely damaged by several during the past 100 years. The area of the country at most risk from quakes is along the coast.

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