Four hundred and thirteen people (at time of writing) have been killed and a further 2500 have been injured after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit coastal Ecuador around 7pm (GMT) Saturday night.
Salty Souls co-founder Marie-Christine Amyot was about 160 miles from the epicentre in the town of Ayampe, where she manages the Ecuador destination for surf and travel company Barefoot Surf Travel.
“It was about 7PM, we were in the hotel and everything started to shake,” says Amyot, 28.
She says at the beginning it was just a gentle shaking, and she thought she just felt sick.
“I didn’t realize it was shaking.
“I just felt nauseous like I was on a boat, and then the girl I was talking to said ‘what’s going on?
“Then I realised it was moving, and then it started to shake more and more strong.
“It was strong! Strongest earthquake i’ve felt.”
Amyot said the electricity went out and the group could hear the plates in the kitchen falling and everything moving.
“At that moment, I just froze… I had no expression in my face and I was kind of wondering ‘is this happening? Really?!”
Amyot’s boyfriend and co-worker Israel Barona was the one who sprang into action.
“Israel said ‘let’s get outside’, so I just got out like a robot,” Amyot says.
A tsunami warning was issued soon after that.
“There was a truck passing with a speaker and saying ‘Alerta Tsunami!’, and that made some people freak out.”
“But the hotel where we were is kind of on a hill so we were fine,” Amyot says.
“It wasn’t my first tsunami alert and I knew we just had to be cautious and where we were it would be fine.”
Amyot, Barona and th group watched the ocean for a time, deciding if the tide got low enough they would start running up the hill.
According to Ecuador Vice President Jorge Glas it is the strongest quake to hit Ecuador since 1979.
There have been reports of people having to construct makeshift coffins to bury loved ones, survivors sleeping in the street next to the rubble of their destroyed homes and there is little to no access to drinking water.
Amyot says the couple is thankful their friends and family are safe but sad for those who have lost loved ones. She is now urging everyone to pull together to help in any way they can.
“Like any tragedy, it’s about supporting each other.
“Right now Ecuador needs support so anything can help.”