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Quake kills 1 in Central America

A STRONG earthquake killed at least one man early yesterday as it leveled homes in Honduras and Belize and sent people running into the streets in their pajamas as far away as Guatemala City.

The magnitude-7.1 quake struck at 3:24am local time at the relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers, according to the United States Geological Survey. The epicenter was 130km 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."

A man died after his house collapsed in Pineda de la Lima, 200km north of the capital, Tegucigalpa, according to Carlos Gonzalez, deputy director of the Honduras Permanent Emergency Commission.

"Dozens of workers have been evacuated from factories in San Pedro Sula (in northern Honduras) because the buildings have cracks," he said. "There are cracks in the roads in several cities."

Juan Sevilla, a spokesman for Honduras's firefighters, said wooden homes collapsed in Puerto Cortes, 200km north of Tegucigalpa, as did a stadium wall in Comayagua, 100km north of the capital.

Osman Hernandez, a spokesman for the mayor of El Progreso, told the media there was "serious damage" to Democracy Bridge, a 1957 span across Honduras's biggest river, the Ulua. He did not provide details of the damage.

Tegucigalpa Mayor Ricardo Alvarez appealed for calm as officials reported electricity, telephones and Internet connections were cut across a large part of Honduras.

"It was an earthquake of great proportions that was felt in almost the entire country," said Ana Maria Rivera, spokeswoman for the emergency commission.

In Belize, people rushed from their homes as glasses and framed pictures crashed off 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."


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