Strong magnitude 8 earthquake hits Peru

LIMA, Peru (5th UPDATE) – A powerful magnitude 8 earthquake toppled houses, blocked roads and knocked out power in parts of Peru on Sunday, May 26, killing one person and injuring at least 26 others as the shockwave extended into neighboring Ecuador.

The earthquake hit in a sparsely 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.

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

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 (0741 GMT).

Seijas said 11 people were injured in Peru, and more than 50 houses were left uninhabitable.

Reports said 15 people had been hurt in Ecuador.

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 two minutes.

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."

#COENInforma Sismo de magnitud 7.5 ocurrido en Alto Amazonas (Loreto) se percibió entre moderado a fuerte en varias regiones. En Lima y Huánuco fue sentido moderado. Se continúa con el monitoreo. Hasta el momento no se reportan daños personales. | @indeciperu — COEN Perú (@COENPeru) May 26, 2019


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!"

Power cuts in Ecuador

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

"We have carried out the respective monitoring in each city to collect information and report damage after the earthquake; so far we have no news," wrote Ecuadoran Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner on his Twitter account.

The president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, who is in Lima to attend a regional summit later on Sunday, tweeted that the town of Yantzaza had experienced power cuts, adding that officials would provide more information about the quake's impact as it became available.

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. –