On Saturday, April 16, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook much of Ecuador, injuring nearly 2,500 and leaving the current death toll at 246. While Ecuador is in an area of high seismic activity, this quake serves to be the largest that the country has experienced since 1979. The tremors from the quake were felt nearly 200 miles from its epicenter and damaged infrastructure in the major cities of Muisine, Manta, Portoviejo, and Pedernales. In response, Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas has declared a state of emergency, and consequently 10,000 soldiers and 4,600 police officers have been deployed to the affected areas.
The quake struck nearly 17 miles south of Muisine, and the U.S. Geological Survey has reported that it took place at the relatively shallow depth of 11.9 miles. Ecuador lies in an area of high seismic activity known as the “Ring of Fire.” This area serves as the boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates, where the Nazca plate is currently being subjected under the South American plate at a rate of 65 mm each year. It is the act of these tectonic plates rubbing against each other that caused the earthquake, in addition to the more than 130 aftershocks that have taken place.
As it stands, much of the communication within the country is currently down. However, all major phone companies have extended free text messaging to the area to allow families to contact missing members. Currently, the government has been able to offer food and other essentials to those impacted by the disaster, and aid has begun to arrive from Venezuela and Mexico. Additionally, Colombian officials have announced that they will provide search teams and dogs to Ecuador, in addition to the Colombian navy carrying water to affected coastal towns.
The tourist destination Pedernales is reported to have encountered the most damage from the earthquake. The mayor of the town, Gabriel Alcivar, issued a statement in which he stated that the “entire town” had been flattened and also urged residents to be cautious of the looting that had broken out in light of the disaster. Alcivar stated in an interview with the BBC that they are “trying to do the most [they] can but there’s almost nothing [they] can do.” As it stands, landslides near Pedernales have made it incredibly difficult to assess the area, and heavy rainfall is expected.
The disaster that has struck Ecuador serves to be one of the worst in the country’s long history of earthquakes. Since the turn of the century, the region has encountered seven earthquakes that have measured above 7.0 on the Richter scale, although the current events have proven to be among the most deadly quakes, due in part to its proximity to major cities. Ecuador has proven to be devastated by the events, and the country looks to recover in the coming months.
The information from this article was gathered from various sources including the BBC, CNN, and Slate.