A group of students and teachers from the Greater Portland Christian School in South Portland reported that they are safe following a deadly earthquake in Ecuador that claimed the lives of more than 230 people on Saturday.

The magnitude 7.8 quake, the strongest to strike Ecuador since 1979, was centered on the country’s sparsely populated fishing ports and tourist beaches about 105 miles northwest of the capital city, Quito.

Unofficial reports said more than 580 people were injured in the earthquake, which began Saturday evening. The U.S. Geological Survey said the country suffered more than 135 aftershocks. The quake flattened buildings and buckled highways along Ecuador’s Pacific coast.

The Greater Portland Christian School’s “Ecuador Team” reported on its Facebook page: “We are all fine but one church family lost the house they were building. When the kids saw them at the church last night they took up an impromptu offering for the family.”

The group also directed its Facebook message to parents, asking them not to worry.

“We want to remind parents that we are all safe here and that since the Manta airport is open we will follow our original plans. News reports will show the worst damage, but we are far from it,” the students wrote. “Please don’t worry about us. We will be home soon as planned.”

The Greater Portland Christian School, located at 1338 Broadway in South Portland, has sent high school students on mission trips to places such as Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador, where they perform a variety of tasks and services in the name of Christ, according to the school’s website.

The school group departed for Ecuador on April 8 and is scheduled to return on April 20.

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