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At least 12 dead after magnitude 6.8 earthquake shakes Ecuador

A damaged car and rubble from a house affected by the earthquake are pictured in Cuenca, Ecuador. March 18, 2023. REUTERS/Rafa Idrovo Espinoza NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

(CNN) — At least 12 people died after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck southern Ecuador on Saturday afternoon, according to government officials.

The earthquake struck near the southern town of Baláo and was more than 65 km (nearly 41 miles) deep, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Eleven people died in the province of El Oro and one person died in the province of Azuay, according to the communications department for Ecuador’s president said. In an earlier statement, authorities said the person in Azuay was killed when a wall collapsed onto a car and that at least three of the victims in El Oro died when a security camera tower came down.

People who were injured were being treated at hospitals, the Presidency added, but did not provide further details.

The USGS gave the tremor an “orange alert,” saying “significant casualties are likely and the disaster is potentially widespread.”

“Past events with this alert level have required a regional or national level response,” the USGS added. It also estimated damage and economic losses were possible.

Relatives of a CNN producer in the western port city of Guayaquil said they felt “very strong” tremors.

CNN afiliate Ecuavisa reported structural damage to buildings in Cuenca, one of the country’s biggest cities. The historic city is in the UN list of world heritage sites.

There is no tsunami warning in effect for the area, according to the US National Weather Service.

The airports of Guayaquil and Cuenca remained open and operational, the country’s statement said.