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Ecuadorians Turn to Social Media as Powerful Earthquake Rattles the Country's Coast

Photo: Damages caused by the earthquake in Ecuador. Screenshot of the video shared by Youtube user Gabehash.

Damage caused by the earthquake in Ecuador. Screenshot of the video shared by Youtube user Gabehash.

Updated 08:00 18/04/2016: As one of the deadliest earthquakes in decades hit the coast of Ecuador on Saturday night, images, videos and written reports have flooded social media. The events are still unfolding, but according to most local news outlets and authorities, the death toll has risen to 272, while more than 2,000 people have been injured.

One of the most affected cities is Pedernales, a city on Ecuador's coast, very close to the epicenter. There, the confusion has sparked incidents of violence and looting:

80% of Pedernales is unfortunately destroyed, there's chaos, looting, the situation is critical. Urgent help is needed #EcuadorEarthquake

‘No one has tried to imprison Twitter users sharing information. Right?’

The government has declared a state of exception, similar to a state of emergency, in several provinces. People have been flocking to Twitter to share updates, and locate friends and loved ones who might have been trapped or lost during the disaster. Some compared the amount of information being published on the platform to the relative lack of information being pushed out by the government and other sources:

When there's an earthquake in your country and the information needs to be found on Twitter, you realize something's wrong. Really wrong.

Ecuador, “state of exception”: translates to: nobody reports anything that the government doesn't say. The law of “in” communication

Meanwhile, users like Andrés Delgado made reference to the government's previous antagonistic behavior towards social media and underlined the importance of these platforms in moments like this:

No one has tried to imprison Twitter users sharing information. Right? RIGHT? #Earthquake #Tsunami

Images of the disaster

Many of the images and videos shared on Twitter also show the devastating effects of the earthquake throughout the country, especially in the areas close to the epicenter:

Moving video #EcuadorEarthquake! 30 seconds that feel like an eternity

More images of the damage caused by the #EcuadorEarthquake in #Pedernales, Manabí

The building of the Social Security Institute of Ecuador in Portoviejo. Brutal #EcuadorEarthquake

On YouTube, users uploaded their accounts of the earthquake. GP Films Trainning Art, usually devoted to video making and martial arts tutorials, posted a video in which he relays reports coming from the most affected places. He also used his Facebook account to post information about rescue plans.

Estamos pendientes hasta estas horas de la madrugada […] Donde hubo más consecuencia fue en Pedernales. Alumnos míos de allá están en shock, no tienen fuerzas, no pueden ni hablar […] Dicen que Pedernales está destruido. No hay una casa en pie. Dicen que lamentablemente está aconteciendo bastante violencia

We've been following the events throughout the early morning […] Most of the consequences were seen in Pedernales. Some of my students there are in shock, they have no strength, they can't even speak […] They say Pedernales is destroyed. There's not one house standing. They [also] say that, unfortunately, a lot of violence is taking place.

This video by Ángel Leonardo Torres was widely shared. It shows the beginning of the earthquake as seen from inside a home goods store:

Using information from the Geophysics Institute of Ecuador, Edgar Sanchez shared on Twitter this map with the last 1,000 earthquakes in the area:

For the latest news about the earthquake, follow the hashtags #TerremotoEcuador, #EcuadorEarthquake#SISMO and the Twitter account of the Geophysics Institute of Ecuador.

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