Strong quake hits Costa Rica, one dead
08 Jan 2009 21:59:11 GMT
Source: Reuters
(Adds reported death, cut-off tourists, details of injured)

By John McPhaul

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, Jan 8 (Reuters) - A strong earthquake struck Costa Rica on Thursday, killing at least one child and injuring several people as it damaged buildings in the capital and shook nearby volcanoes.

The quake of magnitude 6.1 triggered landslides in rural areas and damaged a highway near a national volcano park.

Costa Rican media said two children selling candies to tourists on the Poas volcano were buried in a landslide on a volcano and at least one was dead. Several other people were reported hurt in a village northwest of San Jose.

"I was very frightened. First I got underneath an arch support and then, when it calmed down, I got out of the house," said lawyer Michael Henreichs, 35, in San Jose.

The quake's epicenter was 20 miles (32 km) from San Jose at a depth of 21.7 miles (35 km), the U.S. Geological Survey said, and caused shaking for some 40 seconds.

Pieces of ceiling fell off homes in the capital and a group of tourists was reportedly stranded on a damaged road.

Local television showed buildings with shattered windows and damaged walls, but emergency services officials had no reports of serious injuries or deaths.

Earthquakes above magnitude 6 on the Richter scale can cause widespread damage in populated areas. Thursday's quake was initially measured at 6.2.

The tremor cut off power to some parts of San Jose and some businesses evacuated employees. Images from a TV studio showed ceiling lights swaying from side to side.

The National Coffee Institute (ICAFE) said it had no reports of major damage to the country's coffee farms.

Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination due to its lush natural parks, volcanoes and rich wildlife, but like the rest of Central America it is prone to natural disasters.

Dan Whitlock, an American in Costa Rica to do missionary work, said the earthquake was so strong that guests at his hotel stumbled as they ran out.

"I was outside and all of a sudden I could see the whole building shaking. You could see the pool water moving like a tsunami," he said. (Additional reporting by Robert Campbell and Noel Randewich; Writing by Catherine Bremer, Editing by Anthony Boadle)

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