By Marco Aquino
A strong magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck the coast of southern Peru on Sunday morning, leaving one dead and several dozen injured while causing homes and roads to collapse.
Authorities walked back earlier statements that a second person had died and that 17 people were missing in a mine, signs that the human toll of the quake may not be as drastic as previously feared.
The quake hit offshore at 4:18 a.m. local time (0918 GMT) at a depth of around 36 km (22.4 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said. The epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean 40 km from the town of Acari.
Arequipa Governor Yamila Osorio said on Twitter that a 55-year-old man died in the town of Yauca after being crushed by rock. Jorge Chavez, chief of Peru’s Civil Defense Institute, told local radio station RPP that 65 people were injured but withdrew his earlier statement that a second person had died in the town of Bella Union.
“The victim reportedly found in Bella Union has not been confirmed,” Chavez said. “Officially, we only have one death.”
Chavez said damage to roads was impeding help from arriving to the most-affected zones, which are mainly rural and remote. Aid workers and supplies would be flown in from nearby cities, he added.
On Twitter, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said he would travel to the towns of Acari and Chala “to verify the magnitude of the damages and send the corresponding humanitarian aid.”
Health Minister Abel Salinas Rivas told RPP that rescue workers spoke with representatives of the informal Estrella mine and confirmed that no one was missing from there. Rivas had said earlier that 17 people were missing after the mine east of Chala suffered damages following the quake.
Several municipalities were without electricity, and many roads and adobe houses had collapsed, Osorio said. Many residents of Lomas, a coastal town, were evacuated after feeling an aftershock.
Earthquakes are common in Peru, but many homes are built with precarious materials that cannot withstand them.
In 2007 an earthquake killed hundreds in the region of Ica.
Peruvian maritime authorities said the quake did not produce a tsunami on the coast.
Peru is the world’s No. 2 copper producer, although many of the mines in the south are located far inland from where the quake struck. A representative of Southern Copper Corp said there were no reports of damage at its Cuajone and Toquepala mines in the Moguegua and Tacna regions.
Jesus Revilla, a union leader at the Cerro Verde copper mine in Arequipa, said there were no reports that operations had been affected.
The quake was also felt in northern Chile, Peru’s southern neighbor.
Chile’s National Emergency offices said there were no reports of injuries, damage to infrastructure, or interruption of basic services. The nation’s navy said the quake did not meet the conditions that would produce a tsunami off its coast.