Magnitude 7.5 earthquake rocks Peru, topples centuries-old church tower
A magnitude 7.5 earthquake rocked northern Peru on Sunday, collapsing a 16th-century Catholic church tower although no deaths or serious injuries were immediately reported.
Peru's civil defense chief Carlos Yañez, said at least four people were injured and 220 homes seriously damaged or destroyed. Yañez also said some roads and other infrastructure were damaged.
The quake struck at the sparsely populated region at 5:52 local time, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The quake was deep, about 70 miles below the Earth's surface, a factor that can sometimes reduce damage to buildings and infrastructure.
The epicenter was 25 miles northwest of Barranca, a coastal city of 63,000 people, USGS said.
"We have four injuries that are very minor, but they are being treated in medical centers," Yañez told RPP Noticias.
Photos from the scene showed a pile of rubble where the historic, 45-foot tall tower had stood. Social media posts also showed damage elsewhere in the region, and the quake was felt across Peru's northern border in Colombia and Ecuador.
Walter Culqui, mayor of the city of Jalca Grande, told RPP that, of the 3,000 families in his city, "60 or 70%" had some damage to their homes. Three people suffered minor injuries there, Culqui said.
He said the city will need machinery to move the rubble from blocked roads and battered homes. The National Police tweeted photos of officers and volunteers dragging large rocks off of roadways.
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo Terrones was visiting the most affected communities with emergency management officials.
"You are not alone, brothers and sisters," he tweeted. "We will support those affected and (help with) material damage."
Mirtha Vásquez, head of Peru's Council of Ministers, said the government's "maximum attention is placed on the Amazon and areas affected by the recent earthquake."
The U.S. National Weather Service said no tsunami warnings, watches or threats were issued as a result of the quake.
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The quake struck hours after a magnitude 5.1 temblor with the epicenter in the outskirts of Lima rattled the region. Hernando Tavera, head of the Geophysical Institute of Peru, said at least four aftershocks took place after the latter quake, and he warned residents to prepare for more aftershocks.
Earthquakes are common in Peru within the Pacific Ring of Fire where 85% of the planet’s seismic activity takes place.
"The earthquakes occur because they are part of the evolutionary process of planet Earth," Tavera told RPP Noticias.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Magnitude 7.5 earthquake rocks Peru, topples centuries-old tower