An earthquake and 20 aftershocks rattled Ecuador's northwestern coast in the pre-dawn hours of Monday, leaving three people dead in an area that is still recovering from a devastating 7.8-magnitude quake that killed 673 people in April and left some 6,000 injured.
According to authorities, 15 people were also injured, 65 structures have been affected and 10 buildings have collapsed. The strongest quake in the series hit with a magnitude of 5.8 on the Richter scale at around 2:00 a.m. local time near the city of Atacames.
That quake flattened homes and buildings up and down a long stretch of Ecuador's northwestern Pacific coast. Among the hardest hit areas was the city and province of Esmeraldas.
Hotel operators in Esmeraldas are concerned that the new earthquake could affect tourism over the holiday season, in an area that strongly depends on revenue from the industry.
Photos: El Telegrafo
"Five quakes over magnitude 4 in Esmeraldas," President Rafael Correa wrote early Monday on his Twitter account. "Zones without electricity. Damage is being evaluated. Classes suspended in the province. Have courage!" he added.
Ecuador's Geophysical Institute initially said the quake was of magnitude 5.9, but later downgraded it to 5.8. The U.S. Geological Survey, which monitors earthquakes worldwide, said the quake was of magnitude 5.4.
The Geophysical Institute did not issue a tsunami alert but warned that earthquake aftershocks could be expected.