Skip to main content

Powerful 6.8 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Southern Ecuador, Resulting in Fatalities and Widespread Damage

A powerful earthquake measuring 6.8 magnitude hit southern Ecuador on March 18, 2023. The earthquake's epicenter was located off the coast of the canton of Balao, about 80 kilometers south of Guayaquil, with a hypocenter depth of 65.8 km. The earthquake resulted in significant damage in the provinces of El Oro, Azuay, and Guayas, causing 446 injuries and 16 fatalities in Ecuador and two fatalities and dozens of injuries in Peru.

The USGS reported the earthquake's magnitude as 6.8 Mw with a maximum MMI of VII, while the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre reported a magnitude of 6.7 Mw. Nearly half of Ecuador's population, or 8.41 million people, felt the earthquake, with intensities of V-VII reported by PAGER.

The earthquake resulted from oblique-slip faulting at an intermediate depth near the subduction interface of the Nazca and South American plates. The earthquake had a widespread impact across Ecuador, with 13 out of 24 provinces affected. Damage included the collapse of 96 houses, damage to 318 houses, 148 schools, 55 health facilities, 54 public infrastructure, 56 private infrastructure, and one bridge. At least 494 people were injured across the country.

The earthquake caused the most damage in El Oro, where 40 houses collapsed, and 12 people, including an infant and five members of a single family, were killed, mostly in the city of Machala. In Guayaquil, six buildings collapsed, and 73 buildings and houses were damaged. Power outages affected the city, with some areas experiencing no electricity for as long as seven hours. In Azuay, two people died in Cuenca, the provincial capital.

In Peru, a four-year-old girl was killed when the roof of a house fell, while a teenager was killed after a house collapsed. Six houses collapsed, and 46 houses, two health facilities, and 12 schools were damaged in the region's three provinces. Thirty-nine people were left homeless, and another 101 were affected.

Search and rescue operations and damage assessments were carried out by firefighters and the National Police in the affected areas.