A powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake centered near the town of Palora in Morona Santiago Province has caused an undetermined amount of damage in Riobamba and Ambato, located about 70 kilometers to the west and northwest of the epicenter. Damage was also reported in Macas and Puyo, closer to the epicenter.
The quake, which struck at 5:17 a.m., was just below the magnitude of the devastating 7.8 earthquake that hit Ecuador’s north coast in April 2016, killing hundreds and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
The quake was followed by a number of strong aftershocks, one of 5.8 magnitude, and Ecuador’s geophysical institute says more are expected.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake occurred at a depth of 132 kilometers, or 82 miles, and was centered in a sparsely populated area in the Amazon region of the country. “Although we have yet to make damage assessments, we are fortunate that the event occurred where it did and at great depth,” a spokesman for Ecuador’s risk management office in Riobamba said.
He added that there has been damage reported in Riobamba, Ambato and other communities west of the epicenter but assessment teams are not yet on location to provide official information.
The earthquake was felt throughout most of Ecuador, including the coastal area. Cuenca and Quito experienced moderate shaking.
A second earthquake of 5.5 magnitude, centered just west of Guayaquil, was recorded 23 minutes after the first quake, at 5:40 a.m. The geophysical institute says the two quakes were not related.