Strong quake jolts Honduras

May 28, 2009 12:00 am

, TEGUCIGALPA, May 28 – A powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake rocked Honduras on Thursday, killing at least one person in a collapsed home and sending panicked residents fleeing into the streets, officials said.

The main tremor deep below the Caribbean coast shook the country for more than 30 seconds and a tsunami alert was maintained for more than 90 minutes for Honduras and neighbouring Guatemala and Belize.

The quake struck at 2:24 am (0824 GMT), according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). The shallow 10 kilometre- (six mile)- depth added to the power of the quake.

Worried locals poured onto the palm-lined streets of the capital, Tegucigalpa, and other towns in the mostly poor, mountainous nation of 7.6 million people, local radio stations reported.

One person was killed and another injured when their home collapsed in La Lima, some 230 kilometres (142 miles) north of the capital, a Red Cross official told local radio.

Separately, Red Cross representative Jesse Salazar in Tegucigalpa said there had been power outages and that communications were cut to the island of Roatan, the inhabited area nearest the quake.

Roatan is the biggest of the Bahia islands popular for fishing and diving, and a major draw for US and European tourists and retirees seeking its laid-back and inexpensive lifestyle.

Salazar said damage was likely, particularly on Roatan, but that there had been no reports in yet from the island.

The epicentre was 130 kilometres (80 miles) north of La Ceiba on the coast and 63 kilometres (39 miles) northeast of Roatan on the Islas de la Bahia in the Caribbean, the USGS said.

Residents of the islands said they felt three quakes, Salazar said. The longest lasted more than 30 seconds and was felt across Honduras. The other two were about five seconds.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued the tsunami watch immediately following the quake, but lifted it later when no reports of giant waves were made.

The last major earthquake to rattle the Central American nation was a 6.7 magnitude temblor in July 1999, the USGS said.

Honduras, already facing widespread poverty, also has seen its food security seriously compromised by the devastation caused by three hurricanes last year.

Adding insult to injury, damage caused by earthquakes typically makes access difficult for relief workers in this country of mountains, hills and a limited road network.


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