Earthquake rocks Colombia; waves felt as far as Venezuela

The Associated Press

BOGOTA, Colombia An 6.5 magnitude earthquake rocked Colombia on Thursday, killing at least one person and damaging buildings in several cities.

Television reported two more people were killed near the epicenter, but that could not be immediately confirmed.

The quake, centered in eastern Colombia's sparsely populated plains, was felt some 550 miles away in Caracas, Venezuela.

With news reports of Japan's massive quake on Tuesday still making headlines here, nerves were on edge. Hundreds of people bolted out of swaying buildings in Colombia's capital.

''I kept thinking about Japan,'' said Isabel Malaver, a 19-year-old student who sought shelter in her doorway in Bogota.

Rescue workers were flying over the region near the epicenter in helicopters, checking for damage.

Initial reports were that damage was light, said Omar Dario Cardona, director of the government's disaster office.

The quake registered a preliminary magnitude of 6.9 at its epicenter in Tauramena, 90 miles east of Bogota, according to the Geophysics Institute of the University of the Andes.

But Pat Jorgenson of the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., said their instruments showed a 6.5. The quake that killed more than 4,000 people in Japan this week registered a 7.2.

In Bogota, a wall collapsed on construction workers, killing one and injuring another, said police Gen. Luis Ernesto Chilivert. The tremor also caused at least 30 traffic accidents and one fire, he said.

Church towers in two eastern towns collapsed, and there were reports of several people injured in other incidents.

Telephone and electricity lines were also down in some cities.

In June 1994, at least 1,109 people were killed when a 6.4-magnitude quake triggered a landslide which wiped out several Indian villages in the mountains of southern Colombia. The exact death toll remains unknown.

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