Strong 8.0-magnitude earthquake jolts Peru

Carlos Mandujano, Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 27 2019 06:39 AM

Residents walk in an area affected by a quake in Puerto Santa Gema, on the outskirts of Yurimaguas, in the Amazon region, Peru May 26, 2019. Guadalupe Pardo, Reuters

LIMA -- A powerful 8.0-earthquake struck northern Peru in the early hours of Sunday, toppling houses, blocking roads and knocking out power to some localities. One person was killed and 18 others injured as the shockwave extended into neighboring Ecuador, authorities said.

"There are many old houses that have collapsed after this strong earthquake," said Hugo Araujo, the mayor of Yurimaguas, a town near the epicenter.

The quake hit in a lightly populated region of Peru's Amazon basin region but was felt over a wide area. In Lima and other cities, frightened residents rushed into the streets.

Peru's civil defense coordinator Ricardo Seijas told RPP radio that a man was killed by falling debris in his house in Cajamarca.

Danilo Munoz, the 48-year-old victim, was asleep when the quake struck at 2:41 am. 

Seijas said 11 people were injured in Peru. Ecuador's Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner said an additional seven people were injured in his country.

More than 50 houses in Peru were left uninhabitable, Seijas said. 

The quake blocked roads, damaged a bridge and knocked down houses, said Peru's President Martin Vizcarra, adding that it was the most powerful quake to hit the country in 12 years.

"It is an earthquake affecting the entire Peruvian jungle," he said.

"We are working on establishing an air bridge to transport people who have an emergency," he said.

The quake struck about 75 kilometers (45 miles) southeast of the town of Lagunas at a depth of at least 110 kilometers.

The US Geological Survey and Peruvian geophysicists said the quake registered 8.0 in magnitude. They said it lasted just over 2 minutes.

The mayor of Lagunas, Arri Pezo, said many residents who fled from their homes later stayed in the streets for fear of aftershocks.

"You could not walk at the time of the earthquake, things were falling," Pezo told RPP. Power was knocked out, making it difficult to assess the damage, he said.

One of the most dramatic moments captured on social media happened in Yurimaguas. Video from the police station shows the police chief shouting at his subordinates to quickly open the jail cells and get inmates outside.

"The earthquake is strong!" he is heard yelling. "Open the cells! Help with the detainees, get one each!"

The USGS put the depth of the quake at 110 kilometers, while the Institute of Geophysics of Peru said it was 141 kilometers deep.

Quakes of similar depth "typically cause less damage on the ground surface (but)... may be felt at great distance from their epicenters," it said.

Experts at the US-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was "no tsunami threat because the earthquake is located too deep inside the earth."

POWER CUTS IN ECUADOR 

The shockwave of Sunday's tremor also extended to neighboring Ecuador, where power cuts were reported in parts of its Amazon basin region. 

Peruvian media said the tremor was also felt in parts of Colombia and Venezuela.

Peru lies on the so-called Ring of Fire -- an arc of fault lines that circles the Pacific Basin and is prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The South American country records about 200 earthquakes a year, most of them going unnoticed by the public.

In February, a quake measuring 7.5 with its epicenter in Ecuador rattled the coast and Amazon region of northern Peru.

It left 9 people injured and caused damage in Ecuador, but Peru was unscathed.