Venezuela hit by 7.3-magnitude earthquake


Venezuela hit by 7.3-magnitude earthquake

The tremor interrupted a pro-government rally in Caracas.

Residents stand outside their apartments as some look up at the Tower of David skyscraper following a powerful earthquake in Venezuela (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Residents stand outside their apartments as some look up at the Tower of David skyscraper following a powerful earthquake in Venezuela (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

A powerful earthquake shook Venezuela’s north-eastern coast on Tuesday, startling residents in the capital and briefly interrupting a pro-government rally in favour of controversial economic reforms.

The US Geological Survey put the magnitude of the earthquake at 7.3 and said it had a depth of 76 miles. Its epicentre was 12 miles off the sparsely populated Cariaco peninsula that has seen several devastating earthquakes in the past.

A witness in Cumana, the biggest city near the epicentre, said there were initial reports of several injuries at a shopping centre where an escalator fell, but that there were no other immediate signs of damage in the vicinity.

In Caracas, concrete from the unfinished Tower of David office building fell to the pavement.

An abandoned, unfinished skyscraper known as The Tower of David shows an inclination on the top floors after the earthquake (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

John Boquett, a firefighter captain in Caracas, said there were no initial reports of injuries or major damage in the capital.

The tremor was felt as far away as Colombia’s capital of Bogota, where authorities briefly closed the international airport to inspect for runway damage. In Caracas, office workers and residents fled their buildings and homes.

The confusing moments after the earthquake were captured on state television as Diosdado Cabello, the head of the all-powerful constitutional assembly, was delivering a speech at a march in support of the socialist government’s recent package of reforms to rescue an economy beset by hyperinflation and widespread shortages.

“Quake!”, people yelled as Mr Cabello and others looked from side to side with a mixture of laughter and concern. “It’s the Bolivarian revolution speaking to the world,” Mr Cabello thundered to applause.

A similar-sized earthquake in the same area left dozens dead in 1997.

Civil Protection workers patrol near the Tower of David skyscraper (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said disaster relief teams had been activated but so far there were no reports of fatalities.

“We ask for the greatest patience and tranquillity from the Venezuelan people,” he said in a televised address. “These situations require prudence.”

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Power outages were reported across nearby Trinidad, where people ran into the street and gasped as large glass panes at one supermarket shattered and falling concrete smashed several cars.

The earthquake also cracked walls and thousands of goods fell off supermarket shelves. No injuries or deaths were immediately reported.

Joan Latchman, a seismologist with The University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre, said it was the strongest earthquake felt in Trinidad since December 2016.

She said there were seven aftershocks within an hour of the tremor, and that more were expected.

Press Association

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