6 Sep 2012

Powerful quake hits Costa Rica

8:46 am on 6 September 2012

A 7.6 magnitude earthquake has rocked the Costa Rica, killing two people in the central American country and causing some damage to buildings.

The quake's epicenter was in western Costa Rica about 140 km from the capital San Jose, the US Geological Survey said. It struck at 8.42am on Wednesday and was at a depth of 40km.

The Red Cross said two people died in the powerful earthquake, one of them from a heart-attack. Local media reported a man was crushed under debris.

The quake caused some damage to buildings and infrastructure, but not major destruction, local authorities said.

Residents of San Jose say telephones went down, electricity poles rattled and water flowed out of pools during the quake. Hospitals in San Jose and another city were evacuated.

The quake was felt as far away as Managua, the capital of neighboring Nicaragua.

It was the biggest earthquake in Costa Rica since a 7.6 quake in 1991 left 47 dead, Reuters reports. More recently, 40 people died in a 6.1 magnitude quake in January 2009.

A tsunami warning issued for Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua was later cancelled.

Radio New Zealand business reporter Anusha Bradley and her family were at a hotel in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose when the quake struck.

She told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme she was with her children by the hotel pool when the ground suddenly began to move quite sharply. She says people stopped what they were doing, and the hotel was briefly evacuated.

Ms Bradley says pictures shown on local television show extensive damage to hotels and communications are patchy, hampering efforts to determine the impact of the quake.

The Guanacaste region around the epicenter is known for its beaches, surf and volcanoes. It has several nature and marine reserves and is less tropical than the rest of the Central American nation, with stretches of open savannah and mountains.