Reuters International

People gather on the streets minutes after a tremor was felt in Quito, Ecuador May 18, 2016. Two earthquakes struck Ecuador's coast on Wednesday, causing minor injuries and light damage. REUTERS/Kevin Granja /mel

(reuters_tickers)

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) - Two earthquakes struck Ecuador's coast on Wednesday, leading to one death and light damage in the same region where a magnitude 7.8 tremor killed more than 650 people last month.

Wednesday's tremors, measuring 6.7 and 6.8 in magnitude, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, cut electricity in some coastal areas and sent people running into the streets as far away as the highland capital of Quito, witnesses said.

President Rafael Correa said the epicentre of the first one overnight was the fishing village of Mompiche on the Pacific coast, about 368 km (229 miles) from Quito.

He said the tremors led to light injuries due to people bumping into the things as they ran out of buildings, adding that one person died in circumstances that are still not clear.

"We lament the death, which was caused either directly or indirectly by the earthquake, of a senior citizen in the city of Tosagua," he said, referring to a city in the coastal province of Manabi.

According to one version, the person hit their head on concrete, while a second held that a beam fell on their head.

School was cancelled until Monday in Manabi and in the province of Esmeraldas, Correa said.

The tremors caused minor damage, mainly to infrastructure already hit by the April disaster. There was no tsunami warning.

The second tremor struck just before midday, according to the U.S. Geological survey.

"We were scared, we left the building because it started moving," said Pilar Guacho, 39, a municipal employee in Quito. "We were worried about my daughter because we couldn't make phone calls. We're tense and worried about this situation."

The April 16 earthquake, Ecuador's worst in decades, flattened buildings along the coast.

As well as the fatalities, the tremor also injured more than 6,000 people, made nearly 29,000 homeless, and caused an estimated $2 billion in damage, according to the government's latest tally.

Correa on Wednesday said he was asking the United States, an ideological adversary of his leftist government, to grant Ecuador "Temporary Protected Status."

That designation, which the United States can provide in situations of environmental disasters, would allow nationals from those countries to remain in the United States and in some cases obtain authorization to work.

Ecuador's 110,000-barrel-per-day Esmeraldas refinery was working at 77 percent capacity after some operations were halted due to the first quake on Wednesday. Operations were not affected by the second tremor, an official said.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and James Dalgleish)

reuters_tickers

 Reuters International