A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck offshore of northern Ecuador on April 16, 2016. More than 200 deaths were reported within the first two days after the event. Since 1900, there have been seven other earthquakes of M7 or greater that struck within 250km of this event, near Muisne, Ecuador. Muisne is located along the coast in the province of Esmeraldas.
While commonly plotted as points on maps, earthquakes of this size are more appropriately described as slips over a larger fault area. Events of the size of the April 16, 2016 earthquake are typically about 160x60 km in size (length x width). Ecuador has a history of large subduction zone related earthquakes. On January 31st, 1906 a M 8.3 earthquake (reportedly as large as M 8.8 in some sources) nucleated on the subduction zone interface 90 km to the northeast of the April 2016 event, and ruptured over a length of approximately 400-500 km, resulting in a damaging tsunami that caused in the region of 500-1,500 fatalities.
Historically, Ecuador formed part of the northern Inca Empire until the Spanish conquest in 1533. Quito became a seat of Spanish colonial government in 1563 and part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada in 1717. The territories of the Viceroyalty - New Granada (Colombia), Venezuela, and Quito - gained their independence between 1819 and 1822 and formed a federation known as Gran Colombia. When Quito withdrew in 1830, the traditional name was changed in favor of the "Republic of the Equator." Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors. Ecuador marked 30 years of civilian governance in 2004. In late 2008, voters approved a new constitution; general elections were held in February 2013, and voters reelected President Rafael Correa.
Ecuador is slightly smaller than Nevada, sharing borders with Colombia and Peru along the western coast of South America. Its climate is tropical along the coast, becoming cooler inland at higher elevations. The highest point in Ecuador is Chimborazo (6267 m), an inactive volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes. The natural resources of Ecuador include: petroleum, fish, and timber.
For more information about this and other earthquakes, visit the Earthquake Hazards Program at the US Geological Survey (USGS).
CIA World Factbook; USGS Earthquake Hazards Program; The Columbia Gazetteer, 4/2016; 4/2016; 4/2016