The largest earthquake to hit Ecuador for decades shas killed at least 77 people and injured more than 500.

Footage on social media has emerged showing scenes of panic in the country’s largest city, Guayaquil, as the 7.8-magnitude caused entire buildings to shake and alarms to set off. Supermarket shelves were filmed shaking violently.

President Rafael Correa has urged the nation to remain calm as officials  declared a state of emergency in six of the country’s 24 provinces.

Pictures also showed a collapsed bridge in Guayaquil, about 300km from the epicentre in northern Ecuador, and a collapsed tower at an airport in the city of Manta, which caused injury to an air force official.

The US Geological Survey said the earthquake struck at a relatively shallow depth of 19.2km, about 27km from Muisne in a sparsely populated area.

Several aftershocks, some as strong as magnitude 5.6, continued after the initial quake.

Deaths were reported in the northern provinces of Esmeraldas, Manabí and Guayas, along the northern border with Colombia. Ecuador's police and national guard have been deployed to maintain public order.

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