Earthquake In Ecuador Kills 2 Near Equator

A moderately sized earthquake rumbled Quito, Ecuador yesterday, leaving at least two dead and eight injured.

At 2:58 pm, as the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reports, the ground trembled for just under a minute, causing buildings to sway and rattle as the 5.1 quake caused mudslides and dust clouds. Centered 14 miles northeast of the capital city, the earthquake was a very shallow temblor with a depth of 4.8 miles (7.7 km). It was quickly followed by two aftershock quakes; the first of these occurred only four minutes after the main tremor and had a magnitude of 4.1. The second aftershock came just before 5 pm with a 3.7 magnitude and at a depth of 3.4 miles (5.5 km).

According to Spanish-language news agency El Universo, two people have died and eight were injured in Catequilla, seven miles north of Quito, near the monument which marks the Equator. The Department of Risk Management (SGR) reported that three people were trapped at a quarry in the Cerro Catequilla area; rescue crews are having difficulties reaching them. In Pomasqui, at least 64 houses have been damaged. Evacuations have pushed 68 residents into emergency shelters.

Pictures shared on Twitter reveal a dusty, shaken region. Quito has a population of 1.6 million inhabitants; all were sent running from buildings as the earthquake rattled windows and sent a cloud of dust to envelop the city. Cars were crushed by falling rocks and mud as hillsides collapsed.

The quake occurred during the business day, when offices in Quito were full of employees. Local resident Laura Flores, who lives in Quito’s northern Carcelen district, explained to the AFP news agency that her house experienced only slight damage in the short but frightening earthquake:

“I was talking on the phone with my daughter and suddenly the line went dead. I thought the house was falling down.”

Among the dead is a four year old child.

Ecuador is located along the Pacific Ocean in a seismically volatile area known as the Ring of Fire. The South American country is known for its volcanoes and earthquakes. Yesterday’s tremor came four years to the day after Quito was struck by a deep 6.9 magnitude quake which started 105 miles (170 km) southeast of Ecuador’s capital.

The country sits on the Nazca Plate, a subduction tectonic hotspot responsible for the uplift of the Andes Mountains and the active chain of volcanoes found in this region. Earthquakes are frequent but often shallow and what affects one tectonic plate has repercussions for others. The Nazca Plate moves northeastward and causes crustal deformation along the western edge of South America and pushes at the Pacific Ocean floor south of Mexico, causing further quakes and tsunamis.

According to The Associated Press, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the southwestern Mexican state of Oaxaca early this morning. The quake occurred on the Cocos Plate, which touches the Nazca Plate on its northern edge. With a depth of 6.2 miles (10 km), the tremor’s epicenter was 10 miles (16 km) west of Santiago Pinotepa on the Pacific Coast. There have been no reports of damage.

[Images Courtesy Of Xinhuanet.com]