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Powerful quake rocks Peru; 15 killed

|Lima, August 16, 2007

A powerful earthquake rattled Peru  on Wednesday, killing at least 15 people and injuring more than 200 as homes and a church collapsed.

Peru's health minister said 15 people died and civil defense officials reported that the Senor de Luren church in the coastal province of Ica, the hardest hit region, was toppled by the 7.9-magnitude quake.

Office workers ran onto the streets in fear as tall buildings in the capital Lima shook in two waves that lasted around 20 seconds each and cut power lines.

A tsunami warning was issued for Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Colombia and a small tsunami was detected but it posed no major threat and the warning was later lifted.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia sent condolences to the families of the quake's victims and said the country, which has suffered devastating quakes in the past, narrowly escaped a major disaster.

"It fortunately did not cause a catastrophe with an immense number of victims," he said.

Ambulance sirens blared in the darkened capital where store windows shattered and cellular telephone services were cut off. The health ministry declared a disaster.

"I was playing soccer when the quake hit and I had to run back to my office because I am the chief of security. Now I am going to check on my family," said Juan Francisco Acevedo, 29, who works for an Internet company in Lima.

"People here hugging and crying in fear on the streets," said Cristyane Marusiak, a 31-year-old resident.

The US Geological Survey at first said there were two earthquakes within minutes of each other but later amended its reports to show that one quake struck about 90 miles (145 km) southeast of Lima at a depth of around 25 miles (40 km).

It was followed by nine aftershocks ranging in magnitude from 6 to the upper 4s, said Dale Grant, a geophysicist at the USGS's National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado.

The USGS says earthquakes measuring more than 7 magnitude often result in fatalities. The Andes has many active fault lines.

In 1970, one of the world's deadliest earthquakes killed an estimated 50,000 Peruvians in catastrophic avalanches of ice and mud that buried the city of Yungay.  -Reuters




Tags: Peru | earthquake | Lima |

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