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Page last updated at 22:09 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 23:09 UK

Major quake strikes off Honduras

Bridge collapse in El Progreso
A bridge across a major river collapsed in El Progreso

A powerful earthquake has struck off the coast of Honduras, killing five people and causing widespread damage.

The earthquake hit 64km (39 miles) north-east of Roatan, one of Honduras's Bahia islands in the Caribbean Sea, in the early hours of Thursday.

A number of schools and at least one church were damaged. The main port, Puerto Cortes, has been closed.

Tremors were felt in dozens of cities across the region and as far north as Cancun in Mexico.

The 7.1 magnitude quake struck at 0324 local time (0824 GMT) at a relatively shallow depth of 10km (six miles), according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

It was really strong - I have never felt anything like that
Raul Gonzalez
Hotel receptionist

People in Guatemala City ran into the streets in their pyjamas during the 30-second tremor, news agencies reported. Similar scenes were witnessed in Honduras.

Among the dead was a 15-year-old boy who was killed when a house collapsed in Pineda de la Lima, north of the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, said national fire chief Col Carlos Cordero.

A six-year-old girl was also killed when a wall in her house fell on her in the beach town of Morazan, Col Cordero said.

Carlos Gonzalez, deputy director of Honduras's Permanent Emergency Commission, said at least 24 houses had collapsed along the country's Caribbean coast.

He said dozens of workers had been evacuated from factories in the north-western city of San Pedro Sula because buildings had been badly damaged.

Stone balcony which has fallen on top of a car.
Dozens of houses have been damaged across northern Honduras

Raul Gonzalez, a hotel receptionist in San Pedro Sula, said he ran out of the building when the earthquake struck.

"I kept going for about a block before I looked back and everything had calmed," he said. "It was really strong. I have never felt anything like that."

A bridge which spans the country's largest river, the Ulua, collapsed in El Progreso in the north-west. The bridge is one of two which connect San Pedro Sula - the second largest city in Honduras - with the rest of the country.

Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of American States are due to meet in San Pedro Sula next week. There is no indication so far of the event being cancelled.

Power cut

The biggest port in Honduras, Puerto Cortes, has been shut temporarily, because of damaged machinery and equipment. The port, which handles most of Honduran trade including the export of bananas and coffee, may reopen on Friday.

Rescue officials on Roatan - a resort island popular with scuba divers and snorkellers - said the quake had knocked out power and caused minor damage to buildings.

The Pacific Warning Center in Hawaii called off a tsunami alert after 90 minutes. But it warned that boats and coastal structures could still be affected by rapid currents caused by the quake.



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28 May 09 |  Americas

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