May 28, 2009

Earthquake Rocks Honduras, Causing Damage, Chaos

A strong earthquake hit Honduras early on Thursday, taking the life of a teen as it crushed homes and for a short time created a tsunami alert for the Caribbean coast.

The 7.1 quake shook Honduras' northeast coast close to the scuba-diving resort island of Roatan and smashed homes and buildings throughout the north of the hugely poor country populated with 7 million people.

Emergency services officials announced that a 15-year-old boy perished in La Lima, 100 miles north of Honduras's capital Tegucigalpa, when the ceiling of his home fell on him.

The earthquake hit at 2:24 a.m. when the majority of people were asleep.

Security guard Pedro Ramirez, 52, was driving when the first tremor struck.

"I felt the car rock and I started to hear little bits of debris from the building next door hitting the roof," Ramirez told Reuters News. "It was frightening because it was shaking a lot. I've never felt anything like it."

A 7.1 magnitude quake can result in severe widespread damage. Thursday's earthquake was followed by two smaller quakes in Mexico.

In Roatan, rescue officials reported that the quake had eliminated power and resulted in minor damage to buildings. A tsunami warning was broadcast for Honduras, Guatemala and Belize, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center noted, but it was taken back an hour later.

In Santa Barbara, in northwest area of Honduras, several homes fell and a few ceilings collapsed. Houses also caved in around Puerto Cortes as several areas caught fire in San Pedro Sula. A bridge fell in the city of El Progreso, officials added.

The quake was first reported as being a 7.4.