Strong quake hits Venezuela; little damage reported

Caracas: A powerful earthquake shook Venezuela's northeastern coast, spooking residents in the capital who evacuated buildings and briefly interrupting a pro-government rally in favour of a series of controversial economic reforms.

The US Geological Survey put the magnitude of yesterday's quake at 7.3 and said it had a depth of 76 miles (123 kilometers). Its epicentre was 12 miles (20 kilometers) northwest of Yaguaraparo, Venezuela.

A witness in Cumana, one of the biggest cities 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.

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

The quake was felt as far away as Colombia's capital of Bogota, and in Caracas, office workers and residents fled from their buildings and homes.

The confusing moments after the quake were captured on state television as Diosdado Cabello, the head of the all-powerful constitutional assembly, was delivering a speech at a march.

"Quake!" people yelled as Cabello and others looked from side to side. A similar-sized quake in the same area left dozens dead in 1997.


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