Powerful 7.3 earthquake rattles El Salvador and Nicaragua

The magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck Monday night off the west coast of Central America, killing one person in El Salvador. 

USGS
A US Geological Survey map shows the epicenter of Monday night's magnitude 7.3 earthquake.

A magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck late on Monday off the coast of El Salvador and Nicaragua and was felt across Central America, killing at least one person, but there were no immediate reports of major damage.

El Salvador's emergency services said a dozen homes in the department of Usulutan had been slightly damaged but that coastal areas appeared calm and the country's international airport was unaffected.

Wilfredo Salgado, mayor of the city of San Miguel in El Salvador, said on his Twitter account that a man was killed when an electricity pole fell on him. 

La Prensa Grafica reported at least two other people died of heart attacks due to the quake, and that 18 buildings were damaged and power and mobile phone outages had occurred in parts of the country. At least 11 aftershocks have been recorded, including a magnitude 5.0 quake shortly after midnight, according to the USGS

"It felt really powerful, suddenly the whole house started to move," said Xiomara Amaya, 30, who lives in Usulutan.

The quake struck 42 miles (67 km) west-southwest of Jiquilillo in Nicaragua and 174 km southeast of San Salvador, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It said the quake hit at a depth of about 25 miles (40 km). The quake struck at 9:51 p.m. local time. 

Emergency services in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala as well as in Panama said they had no early reports of damage or injuries. Nicaraguan presidential spokeswoman Rosario Murillo urged coastal residents to seek out higher land in case of a tsunami.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center at one point warned of possible tsunami waves in the region but then said there was no threat.

In 2001, two powerful earthquakes a month apart killed more than 1,150 people between them, and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

Two years ago, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck in the Pacific off El Salvador, triggering a brief tsunami warning but causing no major damage or casualties.

(Additional reporting by Gabriel Stargardter in Mexico City and Dave Graham in Guatemala City; Editing by Simon Gardner and Kieran Murray)

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