A major earthquake of magnitude 7.3 struck Venezuela’s eastern coast, home to largely poor fishing communities, shaking buildings as far away as Colombian capital Bogota and knocking power out in parts of Trinidad.
Venezuelan officials said there were no immediate reports of injuries and two sources at state oil company PDVSA told Reuters the OPEC member’s refineries and oil fields were operating normally. PDVSA did not immediately comment.
But fretful Venezuelans with relatives close to the epicenter said they were struggling to contact their family members due to shaky phone lines. And Venezuela is not in good shape to deal with a natural disaster. It is already wrestling with a crippling economic crisis – medicine is running short, hospitals are barely functioning and there are severe shortages of basics like chicken and milk.
The tremor – one of the country’s strongest ever – hit at 5.31pm. Along Venezuela’s picturesque palm tree-dotted northern coast, residents said the long quake was terrifying and led people to dash into the streets. The governor of Sucre told state television that so far there were no reports of deaths or major damage. He called for calm.
“Do not fall victim to psychological terror, messages about a tsunami and all that,” said governor Edwin Rojas, who belongs to President Nicolas Maduro’s Socialist Party.
The Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment for additional information.
United States Geological Survey geophysicist Jessica Turner said the quake’s depth, 123 kilometres below the surface, would have dampened some of the shaking.
“A 7.3 magnitude quake is going to cause some damage, particularly as in this area, structures are vulnerable. The earth is able to absorb some of the energy, but a 7.3 quake produces a lot of energy,” she said by telephone. The quake was felt in capital Caracas, neighbouring Colombia and nearby island nations like Trinidad and Tobago, and St. Lucia, to the west and north. In Trinidad and Tobago, there were initial reports of some cracks to buildings, cars damaged when concrete debris fell on them, and loss of electricity. Colombia’s government said there were no reports of victims or damage but workers dashed out of high-rise blocks in capital Bogota.
The US Pacific Tsunami Center cancelled an earlier warning of a possible tsunami along the coast near the epicentre, some 190 kilometres from Cumana.
— Érika Ortega Sanoja (@ErikaOSanoja)