A powerful earthquake collapsed more than two dozen homes in Honduras and Belize early on Thursday, killing a teenager and injuring two more as terrified people ran into the streets in towns across much of Central America.
The magnitude-7.1 quake struck at 2:24 am (4:24 a.m. EDT; 0824 GMT) at the relatively shallow depth of 6 miles (10 kilometers), according to the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado. The epicenter was 80 miles (130 kilometers) northeast of La Ceiba, Honduras.
"People were running for the door," said Alfredo Cedeno, an employee at the Gran Hotel Paris in La Ceiba. "You could really feel it and you could see it _ the water came out of the pool." Reynaldo Funez, 15, was buried when his house collapsed in Pineda de la Lima, 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of the capital, Tegucigalpa, according to the national fire commander, Col Carlos Cordero. He said two relatives, ages 16 and 19, were injured. Democracy Bridge, which spans the country's largest river, the Ulua, collapsed in the town of El Progreso, Cordero said. The bridge connects the northern city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras' second-largest, with the rest of the country.
"The central part of the bridge fell into the river," he said. In all, at least 24 houses collapsed along Honduras' Caribbean coast, according to Carlos Gonzalez, deputy director of Honduras' Permanent Emergency Commission.
"Dozens of workers have been evacuated from factories in San Pedro Sula because the buildings have cracks," he said. "There are cracks in the roads in several cities."
In Belize, people rushed from their homes as glasses and framed pictures crashed off of shelves. At least five wooden houses on stilts collapsed in three towns and a water tower toppled in the town of Independence, local officials said. Electricity was out all the way to the Mexican border.
"I urge you not to panic, but to remain calm," National Emergency Minister Melvin Hulse said on the radio. "Your government is monitoring the situation and will be keeping you informed." Tegucigalpa Mayor Ricardo Alvarez appealed for calm as well as officials reported electricity, telephones and Internet connections were cut across a large part of Honduras.
"It was an earthquake of great proportions," said Ana Maria Rivera, spokeswoman for the emergency commission. Closest to the epicenter were the idyllic islands of Roatan and Utila, where officials and hotel employees said there were no injuries or major damage. A tsunami watch was canceled for Honduras, Belize and Guatemala when no unusual waves appeared. Raul Gonzalez, a receptionist at the Gran Hotel Sula in San Pedro Sula, said guests ran into the streets in their pajamas. "I ran out of the building and 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." The hotel did not suffer major damage.
A two-story warehouse caught fire in San Pedro Sula but no injuries were reported, firefighter Lt. Col. Daniel Flores told HRN radio.
The quake was felt strongly in El Salvador, Guatemala and northern Nicaragua, but firefighter Byron Juarez said a survey of firefighting offices throughout Guatemala revealed no reports of major damage. No damage was reported in El Salvador or Nicaragua. The quake occurred in a region where the North American and Caribbean plates come together, according to Gonzalo Cruz, head of geophysics at Honduras' National Autonomous University. The USGS said a magnitude-4.8 aftershock struck off Honduras about three hours after the quake.