Last night, Saturday, there was a big quake (7.8 magnitude) along the coast, mainly in northwestern Ecuador in the Esmeraldas area directly across from the Galapagos, which is about a thousand miles from the coast of Ecuador. (Since this post was first published, the epicenter of the quake especially struck Bahia de Caraquez and Jipiigapa, which are towns located in Manabi Province, south of Esmeraldas Province). Cuenca High Life reports that based upon the number of people who have yet to be accounted, the death toll will easily be over a thousand lost lives.
It was the biggest tremor in my life. I was in the kitchen preparing dinner and looking out the window when just before 7:00 p.m., things started shaking. At least for twenty seconds no more than a half-a-minute, the Palermo started swaying back and forth from my left to my right. It was a really cool feeling. I'm glad I could experience it while awake, and looking out the window at the other buildings as well. A few street lights went out, but most stayed on. When the swaying stopped, I walked over to the sliding doors in the dining area, and slid the door open. It took another twenty-to-thirty seconds for the building to stop creaking and seeming to settle back into place. I hate to think what may have happened if Cuenca had been at the epicenter of the quake. I see there was a lot of destruction at the epicenter on the coast. Here, there wasn't anything of which to be fearful. Although if the walls of my apartment began to crack with major chasms, that would have been another story.
Nothing was seriously damaged in Cuenca. The coast is Zone I for earthquakes; Zone II is the Quito area in the northern Andes, which has many semi-active volcanoes; Cuenca, in the southern Andes, is in Zone III, and has not had a major earthquake in 500 years; and the Amazonias (the Oriente), in eastern Ecuador is the least susceptible area to earthquakes.
The death toll on the coast continues to climb. Wow, the death toll was only twenty-eight last night. Now, the count is over 200, with hundreds more buried in one town, and it is believed that most of them have perished.
I'm surprised some of you heard about it. Last night, I could only find any mention of it on CNN on-line before I had gone to bed. Until then, I thought Cuenca had just experienced one of its normal tremors. I had no idea, our tremor was related to an actual quake on the coast. Even Yahoo with all of its links still had not mentioned the quake this morning. Marc, who is in Lebanon, heard about it on BBC International, so the story must be getting out there. As I mentioned, there was no real damage in Cuenca. Occasional tremors are not unusual. Only today, did I realize how extensive the damage and loss of life was on the coast. The loss of lives has been tragic. Thank God, the quake did not strike at the heart of Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, which lies south of where the quake struck along the coast. The death toll would have been at least in the tens-of-thousands. I have no idea what you are reading out there. Possibly you may be interested in reading something close to Ecuador. Here's a link for those of you who are interested:
Unfortunately, I was told by an Ecuadorian engineer, who is licensed in Illinois, and who has done extensive work in Chicago; that if a major quake were to hit Cuenca, this is not a quake-proof city. Most of it would be rubble in a major quake. I was in Beijing in 1977, and saw the aftermath of just months before of a major quake in that city. All those one story buildings were nothing but rubbled-brick piled on top of one another. The Palermo is a new building, which I understand was made to sway with such quake motion to withstand the earth's movements.
I understand there may be more aftershocks. I would assume that they would affect the coast more so than us here in Cuenca. However, one never knows. Thanks for all of your inquiries and concern. Mucho appreciated!
Update (4/23/16) of the aftermath of the Ecuadorian coastal quake can be found on the following link below. Cuenca High Life will give you a local perspective:
The risk of quakes on the Ecuadorian coasts--geological report (5 20 17):