Major earthquake strikes southern Peru

A magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck off the coast of southern Peru early Sunday morning, leaving at least one dead and injuring dozens of others, authorities said. 

The large quake occurred about 25 miles offshore from Acari, a town in Peru’s southern Arequipa region, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. Shaking could be felt throughout the region and even as far north as the capital city of Lima, about 350 miles away, according to local media reports.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the offshore quake did not present a tsunami threat.

The quake has killed at least one person, Arequipa Gov. Yamila Osorio said. The victim, 55-year-old Justo Palomino Yucra, died after being by crushed by a rock in the town of Yauca. While some news outlets have reported a second death, Osorio said the official count remains at just one. 

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Another 65 people were injured in the quake, Peru’s Civil Defense Institute chief Jorge Chavez told local radio station RPP. 

While assessing the damage in Chala and Acari, two of the hardest-hit towns, Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski told reporters that about 100 homes have collapsed. The quake also triggered power outages and damaged roads in affected towns. 

However, Interior Minister Vicente Romero said the disaster would not affect Pope Francis’ scheduled visit for this coming Thursday through next Sunday. 

Earthquakes are a major risk in Peru, where highly active fault lines are responsible for the uplift of the massive Andes mountain range. In 2007, a magnitude 8.0 quake that also struck southern Peru claimed nearly 600 lives.

Sunday’s quake is a glimpse at how bad a bigger earthquake in a more populated part of Peru would be. The country’s lawmakers have warned in recent years that a large earthquake in Lima could cause some 30,000 deaths and destroy 200,000 homes. 

“Lima is not prepared, really, because of the risky circumstances our people live in,” Mayor Luis Castañeda said in 2015. Many homes in the city were built on dangerous inclines with cheap construction materials and are not up to construction code, experts have warned.

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