In normal circumstances, the 6.7 and 6.8 magnitude earthquakes that struck the north coast just before 3 and at 11:46 Wednesday morning would have probably been the strongest seismic events of the year in Ecuador. As it was, they are being recorded as strong aftershocks of the massive April 16 quake that hit 20 miles to the south.
Ecuador’s Risk Management Office reported that an elderly woman was killed and at least 120 were injured, most of them treated at hospitals near the epicenters.
In Quito, two people were being treated after they were trampled on the sidewalk by a crowd rushing out of a building during the the late morning quake.
In addition to injuries, risk management reported that dozens of structures damaged by the April 16 quake either collapsed or sustained additional damage. In Esmeraldas, dozens of buildings not affected by the April quake were damaged, many being reported as irreparable. Power outages were reported in Quevedo, Esmeraldas, Manta, and Portoviejo, among other places, and the transportation ministry said that some roads were damaged.
The quakes, centered within 10 kilometers of each other, lasted 30 to 40 seconds and were felt along the entire coast as well as in Guayaquil, Quito, Ibarra, Santo Domingo, and Ambato. Some people felt the quakes in Cuenca although most did not.
In Guayaquil and Quito, the 11:46 a.m. quake sent thousands of workers into the streets, fearful of building collapses. President Rafael Correa suspended school classes and ordered police and army personnel to the affected area. The Interior Ministry invoked a “no fun” rule, ordering the country’s bars, discos and night clubs closed until Monday, May 23.
Alexandra Alvarado, lead seismologist at Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute said the strength of the quakes were unusual, a month after the initial quake, and two quakes of such strong magnitude was even more unusual. “We need to understand, however, that this is normal process of geologic resettlement after the April 16 event,” she said. “We should expect more aftershocks in the coming weeks and possibly months. What happened today proves that they can be strong.”