Powerful earthquake kills dozens in Peru

Peru was hit by a strong earthquake early Wednesday night, killing at least 48 people and injuring 200, according to early reports from civil defense units.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the 7.9 magnitude earthquake was centered about 90 miles southeast of Lima , the capital, and struck at 6:40 p.m. The town of Ica, about 175 miles south of Lima, appeared to be the hardest hit, though the temblor rippled streets and damaged buildings in Lima, reports Washington Post.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia sent condolences to the families of the quake's victims but said the country had narrowly escaped a major disaster.

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. State doctors called off a national strike that began on Wednesday to handle the emergency.

A tsunami alert issued by the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center for the coasts of Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama has been withdrawn, reports Irish Times.

Local media said the initial quake lasted about two minutes and could be felt in the capital, Lima , some 145 kilometers from the epicenter. Some residents ran into the streets of Lima , where the quake caused blackouts and cut cellular phone service in some neighborhoods.

Media reports say the quake caused serious damage in several towns south of the capital.

Shortly after the quake, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning of an ocean surge for Latin America 's Pacific coast. The Hawaii-based center later canceled the warning, saying the tsunami was not a threat.

Peru was struck by a 7.5 magnitude quake that killed five people in 2005. Peru lies near the boundary of two tectonic plates, which makes the region vulnerable to strong earthquakes, informs Voice of America.

Source: Agencies