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Powerful earthquake rocks Central America

BY SUSAN KIM | Baltimore | January 13, 2001

The quake, measured at a magnitude of 7.6, was centered off the Salvadoran coast, according to the U.S. Geological Survey National

Earthquake Information Center in Colorado. El Salvador and Guatemala were hardest hit.

"It was felt from Mexico City to high-rise buildings in Colombia," said Waverly Person, a geo-physicist with the Earthquake Information

Center.

Emergency officials said thousands of buildings may have been destroyed. News reports from San Salvador said Saturday night that much

of the country was without electricity and drinking water. According to early reports, dozens of people were killed in Guatemala and El

Salvador. But Person -- along with other responding organizations such as the Red Cross -- fear that the death toll could be much higher.

"There appears to be a lot of damage," he said. "Communications are knocked out."

Landslides in and around San Salvador were reported to have buried hundreds of homes. Many roads were completely blocked by

mudslides and landslides. There were also reports of a bus buried by a landslide in Tecolouca, east of San Salvador.

Throughout El Salvador and Guatemala, there are reports of collapsed buildings. Radio stations were beginning to return to the air on

Saturday afternoon. The San Salvador airport has been closed.

A tsunami warning was in effect Saturday for Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Mexico, with a tsunami watch posted for Ecuador, Panama, and

Peru.

Honduran officials reported cracked walls in many buildings but had no reports of injuries.

"Until we have better communications, we have to wait and see," said Person. "It doesn't look good."

A 1986 earthquake near San Salvador, killed 1,500 people and injured thousands more.

Southern California also reported several small earthquakes Saturday. One earthquake that measured 4.3, struck an area near Los Angeles,

but no damage was reported.


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