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Southern Peru jolted by strong earthquake, govt to declare state of emergency

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-01-15 09:45

A security force member searches for victims in the district of Yauca in Arequipa, Peru, Jan 14, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

LIMA - Peru's southern coast was jolted by a powerful offshore earthquake on Sunday, which left at least one dead and dozens of others injured. The Peru government said it will declare a state of emergency in the affected areas.

Peru's Geophysics Institute (IGP) said on Sunday that the 6.8-magnitude quake hit off the coast of the Arequipa department at 4:18 am local time (0918 GMT), and at a depth of 48 km.

"The 6.8-magnitude earthquake with an epicenter in Arequipa was also felt in (the capital) Lima, Ica, Ayacucho and other cities," national news agency Andina said.

While the quake sparked waves of up to 7 meters high along the Arequipa coastline, officials said there was no threat of a tsunami.

The government confirmed one person died as a result of the quake and 42 others were injured as dozens of homes collapsed.

The fatal victim was crushed to death after loose rocks fell on his adobe home in the district of Yauca, Peru's National Emergency Operations Center said.

Several primary roads, including the Panamericana Sur, or South Pan-American Highway, sustained damage, temporarily blocking or restricting the flow of vehicles, and electricity was disrupted in a few communities.

The US Geological Service said the quake measured 7.1 on the Richter Scale and the epicenter was 40 km away from Acari in the Arequipa department of southwestern Peru.

"We are preparing a decree to declare a state of emergency, to take immediate steps to facilitate the immediate reconstruction of homes and efforts to recover roadways," President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's chief of staff, Mercedes Araoz, said in the first official report following the quake.

Kuczynski traveled to the disaster site earlier Sunday, accompanied by Health Minister Abel Salinas and other cabinet members.

Two minor aftershocks, measuring 3.8 and 3.7, followed some four hours after the first quake.

Salinas said that an informal mine east of the coastal city of Chala collapsed following the quake, and 17 people there went missing.

Rescue teams had brought tents and mattresses to some places in quake-hit areas, officials said.

The last major earthquake to hit southern Peru, including Arequipa and its surroundings, was a destructive 8.4 that hit June 23, 2001, killing some 150 people and injuring nearly 3,000. As many as 22,000 people were left homeless.

The Nazca and South American plates meet below this part of Peru, causing seismic activity. The quake was also felt in northern Chile.

Chile's National Emergency Office said there were no reports of injuries, damage to infrastructure, or interruption of basic services.

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