Major earthquake rocks Ecuador, death toll rises

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Ecuador VP confirms quake deaths

QUITO (Reuters) -- Ecuador's strongest earthquake in decades, a 7.8 magnitude tremor, struck off the Pacific coast on Saturday, killing at least 41 people and causing damage near the epicenter as well as in the largest city of Guayaquil.

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Major earthquake rocks Ecuador, death toll rises
Damage in Quito, Ecuador from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake. https://t.co/h5l2Q4KsWS
7.4 magnitude quake in Ecuador. Here's video from Quito the capital city: https://t.co/of8lK1dkGS
Powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake strikes Ecuador's coast https://t.co/hCBIQ9ThfZ (📷: via @marcelodelpozo) https://t.co/lSGFAvIk2C
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President Rafael Correa declared a national emergency and urged the Andean nation's 16 million people to stay calm.

"Our infinite love to the families of the dead," he said on Twitter, while cutting short a trip to Italy to return home.

Authorities urged people to evacuate coastal areas for fear of rising tides. Alarmed residents streamed into the streets of the highland capital Quito, hundreds of kilometers (miles) away, and other towns across the nation.

The government said the death toll would likely rise and damages were "serious," especially in the western coastal areas nearest the quake and in Guayaquil.

READ MORE: Drone footage reveals full extent of Kumamoto, Japan quake damage

"Unfortunately, up to the moment there are 41 citizens who have lost their lives," said Vice President Jorge Glas, noting that it was the strongest quake to hit Ecuador since 1979.

The quake struck early evening at a depth of 20 km (12.4 miles), and was felt all around the country.

"There are villages that are totally devastated," said Gabriel Alcívar, mayor of the city of Pedernales in the hard-hit province of Manabi, in a radio interview. "What happened here in Pedernales is catastrophic."

Ramón Solorzano, 46, a car parts merchant in the city of Manta, said he was getting ready to leave the city with his family.

"Most people are out in the streets with backpacks on, heading for higher ground," he said, speaking in a trembling voice via a WhatsApp phone call. "The streets are cracked. The power is out and phones are down."

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Parts of the capital were without power or telephone service, with many communicating only via WhatsApp. Photos on social media showed cracks in the walls of shopping centers.

The capital's municipal government later said power had been restored and there were no reports of casualties in the city.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said tsunami waves reaching 0.3 to 1 meter (one to three feet) above tide level were possible for some coastal areas of Ecuador.

State officials said the OPEC nation's oil production was not affected by the quake but that the principal refinery of Esmeraldas, located near the epicenter, had been halted as a precaution.

Social media pictures showed a collapsed bridge in Guayaquil and minor damage to the lobby of a hotel, as well as images of a collapsed control tower at an airport in the city of Manta.

"At first it was light, but it lasted a long time and got stronger," said Maria Jaramillo, 36, a resident of Guayaquil, describing windows breaking and pieces falling off roofs.

"I was on the seventh floor and the light went off in the whole sector, and we evacuated. People were very anxious in the street ... We left barefoot."

Across the Pacific in Japan, a 7.3 magnitude tremor struck Kumamoto province early Saturday, killing at least 32 people, injuring about a thousand and causing widespread damage, in the second major quake to hit the island of Kyushu in just over 24 hours. The first, late on Thursday, killed nine.

RELATED: Pictures show devastation in Japan

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Major earthquake rocks Ecuador, death toll rises
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 15: A woman rides a scooter in front of a collapsed house a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 16: People get up right after the 7.3 magnitude earthquak at the evacuation center at the Mashiki Town Gymnasium on April 16, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. A 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit Kumamoto prefecture once again on April 16, 2016 after the 6.4 earthquake on April 14, 2016 killed nine people. (Photo by Taro Karibe/Getty Images)
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 16: The rescue workers take care of an elderly woman suffering from the shock after the 7.3 magnitude earthquake at the evacuation center at the Mashiki Town Gymnasium on April 16, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. A 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit Kumamoto prefecture once again on April 16, 2016 after the 6.4 earthquake on April 14, 2016 killed nine people. (Photo by Taro Karibe/Getty Images)
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 15: A bicycle and a car are seen by the collapsed house a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
Hotel guests gather at the lobby after another earthquake hit the area in Kumamoto, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 16, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 16: A road newly damaged by the 7.3 magnitude earthquake is seen on April 16, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. A 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit Kumamoto prefecture once again on April 16, 2016 after the 6.4 earthquake on April 14, 2016 killed nine people. (Photo by Taro Karibe/Getty Images)
A patient is evacuated by emergency staff from an hospital in Kumamoto City on April 16, 2016, over fears it could collapse as a wave of aftershocks shook the area. A powerful earthquake hit southern Japan early on April 16, 2016, authorities said, sending panicked residents from their homes and damaging buildings in a region where nerves were already frayed by a swarm of strong shaking. The earthquake hit just over a day after another strong tremor in the same area killed nine people, injured hundreds and toppled buildings. / AFP / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
A patient is evacuated by emergency staff from an hospital in Kumamoto City on April 16, 2016, over fears it could collapse as a wave of aftershocks shook the area. A powerful earthquake hit southern Japan early on April 16, 2016, authorities said, sending panicked residents from their homes and damaging buildings in a region where nerves were already frayed by a swarm of strong shaking. The earthquake hit just over a day after another strong tremor in the same area killed nine people, injured hundreds and toppled buildings. / AFP / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
An elderly man who was evacuated walks in a park in Higashi-ku in Kumamoto City on April 16, 2016. A strong 7,0 earthquake hit southern Japan early, the US Geological Survey said, a day after another powerful tremor killed at least nine people in the same area. Tens of thousands of people fled their homes after the 6.5-magnitude quake struck the southwestern island of Kyushu on Thursday night, leaving lumps of concrete strewn in the streets. / AFP / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
Medical staff prepare to evacuate patients from the hospital in Kumamoto City on April 16, 2016, over fears it could collapse as a wave of aftershocks shook the area. A powerful earthquake hit southern Japan early on April 16, 2016, authorities said, sending panicked residents from their homes and damaging buildings in a region where nerves were already frayed by a swarm of strong shaking. The earthquake hit just over a day after another strong tremor in the same area killed nine people, injured hundreds and toppled buildings. / AFP / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
Local residents walk next to a collapsed wall after an earthquake in Mashiki town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 14, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 15: A house is seen collapsed a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 15: Locals carry water cases a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 15: A house is seen collapsed a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 15: A house is seen collapsed a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. The owner of the house said that the house was damaged more by the aftershock that happened at 0:05. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 15: A house is seen collapsed a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 15: A house is seen collapsed a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 15: A woman walks in front a collapsed house a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake at the Mashiki Town Hall on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 15: The Japan Self-Defense Forces members carry relief supplies for a soup-run at the evacuation center a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake at the Mashiki Town Hall on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 15: Rescue workers give an elderly woman a piggy back ride after the earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
A woman reacts at a health and welfare center acting as an evacuation center after an earthquake in Mashiki town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 15, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. THIS IMAGE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY, AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY.
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 15: A house partially collapsed is seen after the earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 15: Rescue workers are seen after the earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
Firefighters check a collapsed house after an earthquake in Mashiki town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 15, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 15: Rescue workers are seen after the earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
A shop clerk cleans broken wine bottles following an earthquake in Kumamoto city on April 14, 2016. The strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck at 9:26 pm (1226 GMT) in Kumamoto, central Kyushu at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometres (6.2 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency said. ==JAPAN OUT== / AFP / JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 15: Rescue workers and vehicles are seen after the earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
Residents gather for shelter in front of the town hall following an earthquake at Mashiki town in Kumamoto prefectuire on April 14, 2016. The strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck at 9:26 pm (1226 GMT) in Kumamoto, central Kyushu at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometres (6.2 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency said. ==JAPAN OUT== / AFP / JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 15: A house leaning to a side is seen after the earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
Evacuees gather in front of the town office building after an earthquake in Mashiki town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 15, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 14: A wall is seen partially collapsed due to the earthquake on April 14, 2016 in Kumamoto, Japan. A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 14: The glass door of a store is seen broken due to the earthquake on April 14, 2016 in Kumamoto, Japan. A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
Firefighters check the damaged area following an earthquake at Mashiki town in Kumamoto prefectuire on April 14, 2016. The strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck at 9:26 pm (1226 GMT) in Kumamoto, central Kyushu at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometres (6.2 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency said. ==JAPAN OUT== / AFP / JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 14: The stone wall of the Kumamoto Castle is seen partly collapsed on April 14, 2016 in Kumamoto, Japan. A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 14: The stone wall of the Kumamoto Castle is seen partly collapsed on April 14, 2016 in Kumamoto, Japan. A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
KUMAMOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 14: The stone wall of the Kumamoto Castle is seen partly collapsed on April 14, 2016 in Kumamoto, Japan. A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
A two-story house is seen tilted with a broken wall following an earthquake in Kumamoto city on April 14, 2016. The strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck at 9:26 pm (1226 GMT) in Kumamoto, central Kyushu at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometres (6.2 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency said. ==JAPAN OUT== / AFP / JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents stand on the street following an earthquake in Kumamoto city on April 14, 2016. The strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck at 9:26 pm (1226 GMT) in Kumamoto, central Kyushu at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometres (6.2 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency said. ==JAPAN OUT== / AFP / JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture shows an office following an earthquake in Kumamoto city on April 14, 2016. The strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck at 9:26 pm (1226 GMT) in Kumamoto, central Kyushu at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometres (6.2 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency said. ==JAPAN OUT== / AFP / JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents stand on the street following an earthquake in Kumamoto city on April 14, 2016. The strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck at 9:26 pm (1226 GMT) in Kumamoto, central Kyushu at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometres (6.2 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency said. ==JAPAN OUT== / AFP / JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
A collapsed house is seen after an earthquake in Kumamoto, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 15, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
Local residents wrap themselves in blankets as they sit on the road after they are evacuated from their home after an earthquake in Mashiki town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 15, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
Local residents walk next to a collapsed wall after an earthquake in Mashiki town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 14, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Broken dishes are seen at a restaurant after an earthquake in Kumamoto, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 14, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. THIS IMAGE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY, AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY.
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