Strong earthquake near Peruvian capital; at least 17 reported killed

Associated Press Writer

LIMA, Peru (AP) - A powerful earthquake shook Peru's coast near the capital on Wednesday, killing at least 17 people as it toppled buildings and caused hundreds to flee office buildings in Lima.

A tsunami warning was issued for South America's Pacific coast The highly respected Cable new station Canal N reported that a church in the city of Ica south of Lima collapsed, killing 17 people and injuring 70.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit about 90 miles southeast of Lima at a depth of about 25 miles.

The quake toppled houses and caused panic in the capital. A short and weaker aftershock followed.

Associated Press reporters said the quake shook Lima for more than a minute and that some homes had collapsed in the city's center.

Firefighters said some street lights and windows shattered in Lima and that hundreds of workers were evacuated from office buildings and remained outside, fearing aftershocks.

The quake also knocked out telephone service and mobile phone service in the capital. Firefighters were called to put out a fire in a shopping center. Callers to Radio Programas, Peru's main news station, said parts of several cities in southern Peru had been hit with blackouts.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for the coasts of Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Colombia, and a tsunami watch from Panama to Mexico. It also issued a tsunami advisory for the U.S. state of Hawaii.

The last time a quake of magnitude 7.0 or larger struck Peru's central coast was in 1974 when a magnitude 7.6 hit in October followed by a 7.2 a month later.

The latest Peru quake occurred in a subduction zone where one section of the Earth's crust dives under another, said USGS geophysicist Dale Grant at the National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo.

Some of the world's biggest quakes strike in subduction zones including the catastrophic Indian Ocean temblor in 2004 that generated deadly tsunami waves.

Associated Press writer Alicia Chang in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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