The world in brief: Quake hits Ecuador, Peru; at least 4 die

Police stand around building damaged after an earthquake struck Cuenca, Ecuador, Saturday, March 18, 2023. The U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 about 50 miles south of Guayaquil. (AP Photo/Xavier Caivinagua)
Police stand around building damaged after an earthquake struck Cuenca, Ecuador, Saturday, March 18, 2023. The U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 about 50 miles south of Guayaquil. (AP Photo/Xavier Caivinagua)


Quake hits Ecuador, Peru; at least 4 die

QUITO, Ecuador -- A strong earthquake shook southern Ecuador and northern Peru on Saturday, killing at least four people, trapping others under rubble and sending rescue teams out into streets littered with debris and fallen power lines.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of about 6.8 that was centered just off the Pacific Coast, about 50 miles south of Guayaquil, Ecuador's second-largest city.

One victim was a passenger in a vehicle crushed by rubble from a house in Cuenca, according to the Risk Management Secretariat, the South American country's emergency response agency.

In the coastal state of El Oro, three people died and several were trapped under rubble, the agency reported. In Machala, a two-story home collapsed before people could evacuate, a pier gave way and a building's walls cracked, trapping an unknown number of people.

The agency said firefighters worked to rescue people while the National Police assessed damage, their work made more difficult by downed lines that interrupted telephone and electricity service.

The earthquake was also felt in northern Peru, where its effects weren't immediately clear Saturday afternoon.

Germany, Japan aim to strengthen ties

TOKYO -- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held the first round of government consultations in Tokyo and agreed Saturday to strengthen economic and defense ties to better cope with China's growing influence and global security concerns.

Kishida told a joint news conference after the talks that the sides agreed to strengthen supply chains in minerals, semiconductors, batteries and other strategic areas, in order to "counter economic coercion, state-led attempts to illegally acquire technology and non-market practices."

In Tokyo, the two leaders again condemned Russia's war on Ukraine and agreed to continue tough sanctions against Moscow and strong support for Ukraine, Kishida said.

Russia's nuclear threat has made atomic weapons disarmament even more difficult and divided the international community, Kishida said, adding that it's crucial to get China, Russia and other nuclear states to resume discussing nuclear disarmament.

Scholz said the government consultations will "further advance our strategic cooperation, and they're a very important part of giving a new drive to this close cooperation we want to achieve together," German news agency dpa reported.

In separate talks, Japanese Defense Minster Yasukazu Hamada and his German counterpart Boris Pistorius agreed to seek a legal framework to facilitate increased joint defense activities, as well as cooperation in defense equipment and technology, the Japanese Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Million of fish found dead in Australia

CANBERRA, Australia -- Millions of fish have washed up dead in southeastern Australia in what authorities and scientists say is caused by floods and hot weather.

The Department of Primary Industries in New South Wales state said the fish deaths coincided with a heat wave that put stress on a system that has experienced extreme conditions from wide-scale flooding.

The deaths were likely caused by low oxygen levels as floods recede, a situation made worse by fish needing more oxygen because of the warmer weather, the department said.

Residents of the Outback town of Menindee complained of a terrible smell from the dead fish.

Kazakh voters set to go to polls today

MOSCOW -- Voters in Kazakhstan will cast ballots today after a short campaign for seats in the lower house of parliament that is being reconfigured in the wake of deadly unrest that gripped the resource-rich Central Asian nation a year ago.

The snap election comes on the third anniversary of the resignation as president of Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had led Kazakhstan since 1991.

His successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, was widely expected to continue Nazarbayev's authoritarian course and even renamed the capital as Nur-Sultan in his predecessor's honor. But the country's political landscape changed markedly after a wave of violence in January 2022 when provincial protests initially sparked by a fuel price increase engulfed other cities.

More than 220 people, mostly protesters, died as police put down the unrest.

Tokayev's Amanat party holds the overwhelming majority of seats in the current parliament and the rest belong to parties that are largely loyal to Amanat.

More than 400 candidates, most of them self-nominated, are competing in the single-mandate races, and the national elections commission authorized two additional parties to enter the proportional contest.

Candidates have raised a wide array of issues including further political changes, housing and rising food prices, and the country does not show a clear path forward. But many are encouraged by the expanded election opportunity.


  photo  Police talks to people next to the site where a car was crushed by debris after an earthquake shook Cuenca, Ecuador, Saturday, March 18, 2023. The U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 about 50 miles south of Guayaquil. (AP Photo/Xavier Caivinagua)
 
 
  photo  A police officer looks up next to a car crushed by debris after an earthquake shook Cuenca, Ecuador, Saturday, March 18, 2023. The U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 on Saturday about 50 miles south of Guayaquil .(AP Photo/Xavier Caivinagua)
 
 
  photo  Rescue workers stand next to a car crushed by debris after an earthquake in Cuenca, Ecuador, Saturday, March 18, 2023.. The U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 about 50 miles south of Guayaquil. (AP Photo/Xavier Caivinagua)
 
 


  photo  German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (left) and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shake hands Saturday after summit at prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo. (AP/Nicolas Datiche)
 
 


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