Thursday, August 16, 2007
Shake like a Peruvian Earthquake 7.9
August 16, 2007 - 3:56PM
A massive 7.9-magnitude earthquake rocked Peru today, reportedly killing at least 72 people and prompting evacuations in Peruvian and Colombian coastal cities amid fears of a tsunami.
More than 680 people were also injured, according to a provisional count released by Carlos Cordova, according to government officials.
The earthquake, which struck off the coast of central Peru, was felt as far as neighbouring Ecuador and temporarily triggered a tsunami warning for South America's Pacific coast.
Some of the dead appeared to have been worshippers inside Ica's Senor de Luren church, which collapsed during the earthquake, media reported.
But President Alan Garcia said the earthquake did not appear to have caused catastrophic damage.
"Thank you God Almighty, these terrible quakes did not cause a high death toll like in other years," he said in a nationally televised address.
Tsunami warning cancelled
The quake struck just offshore, 148 kilometeres south-southeast of Lima at a depth of 40 kilometeres at 2341 GMT (0941 AEST Thursday) according to the US Geological Survey.
A 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck about hour and 20 minutes later near the same location and at a depth of 10 kilometeres .
Peru's Seismology Institute measured the first quake at 7.7 on the Richter scale.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre had issued a tsunami warning and watch for 11 Latin American countries but cancelled the alerts about an hour later.
The Colombian government ordered evacuations in the port cities of Tumaco and Buenaventura and the coastal town of Bahia Solano, while Peruvian authorities told residents of La Punta district to leave their homes.
Peruvian Health Minister Carlos Vallejo put hospitals and health centres on high alert.
An Associated Press photographer said that homes had collapsed in the centre of Lima and that many people had fled into the streets for safety. The capital shook for more than a minute.
"There was a pretty big, intense, long-wave earthquake, I felt it even though I was in a taxi," a woman named Erica in Lima told APTN television.
"The car was shaking, and you could see all the buildings here in San Isidro and the glass shaking.
"People were running, everyone was grabbing their cell phones. They wanted to call home and they couldn't. No one could get through to my line either."
Firefighters quoted in radio reports said that lamp posts collapsed and windows shattered in Lima but did not specify if there were any injuries.
Hundreds of workers were evacuated from Lima office buildings after the quake struck and remained outside, fearing aftershocks.
Callers to Radioprogramas, Peru's main news radio station, said parts of several cities in southern Peru had been hit with blackouts. Callers reported homes in poor neighbourhoods in Chincha and Cerro Azul had collapsed.
The quake also knocked out telephone service and mobile phone service in the capital.
Firefighters were called to put out a fire in a shopping centre. State doctors called off a national strike that began on Wednesday to handle the emergency.