At least 115 die in Peru in magnitude-7.9 quake
The temblor knocks out infrastructure and phones while boulders block a main highway
LIMA, Peru » A powerful 7.9-magnitude earthquake shook Peru's coast near the capital, killing at least 115 people and injuring more than 1,000, Deputy Health Minister Jose Calderon said today.
Isles' warning center cancels tsunami alert
The earthquake off Peru put Hawaii civil defense and military agencies on alert for about two hours yesterday until the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center canceled its tsunami advisory for Hawaii at 4:09 p.m.
Scientists said some Hawaii coastal areas might still experience small sea-level changes and strong or unusual currents lasting several hours as a result of the earthquake, which happened at 1:41 p.m. Hawaii time. Those effects would begin at 2:14 a.m. today at the earliest.
The Ewa Beach center canceled tsunami warnings and watches for Pacific coastal areas after collecting data on wave action from ocean buoys as well as information from witnesses in Peru and Chile, said geophysicist Barry Hirshorn. The National Weather Service agency put out its first advisory 39 minutes after the earthquake struck.
"A tsunami was generated, but we saw only small changes on our water gauges," Hirshorn said. "If this had been a magnitude 9, or what we call a slow earthquake, we could be in a different situation."
Speaking on television and radio, Calderon called the situation "dramatic" in Ica, a city of 650,000 people located 165 miles southeast of the capital.
He encouraged Peruvians to donate blood for the injured and said a convoy of doctors and nurses was headed to the Ica area. News reports said dozens of people were crowding hospitals in the city seeking help even though the hospitals had suffered cracks and other structural damage.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake hit at 6:40 p.m. about 90 miles southeast of Lima at a depth of about 25 miles. Four strong aftershocks ranging from magnitudes of 5.4 to 5.9 were felt afterward.
Several hours later, President Alan Garcia said in a nationwide broadcast that it apparently had not caused a catastrophe.
"Thank you, God Almighty, these terrible quakes did not cause a high death toll like in other years," he said.
The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning but later canceled the alert. It said the quake had caused an estimated 10-inch tsunami near the epicenter.
An Associated Press photographer said some homes had collapsed in the center of Lima and that many people had fled into the streets for safety. Lima shook for more than a minute.
"This is the strongest earthquake I've ever felt," said Maria Pilar Mena, 47, a sandwich vendor in Lima. "When the quake struck, I thought it would never end."
Garcia ordered all police personnel to the streets of Lima to keep order and said he was sending the country's health minister and two other Cabinet members to Ica. Garcia also said public schools will be closed today because the buildings might be unsafe.
Police reported that large boulders shook loose from hills and were blocking the country's Central Highway east of Lima.
Firefighters quoted in radio reports said many street lights 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. The quake also knocked out telephone service and mobile phone service in the capital.
Callers to Radioprogramas, Peru's main news radio station, said parts of several cities in southern Peru had been hit with blackouts.