A building in the city of El Salvador collapsed Wednesday after an 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck the country’s capital, killing at least 17 people and damaging thousands of homes.
Authorities said at least 15 buildings had collapsed in the southern city of Cajamarca and the neighboring city of Villahermosa, where at least 10 others were damaged.
The earthquake was centered in the countrys capital, where the epicenter was just west of the provincial capital, Guadalajara.
Authorities declared a state of emergency and activated a 10-day state of national emergency in the cities of Guadalamarcas, Villahermoosa and El Salvador, as well as the capital city, according to the national government website.
In El Salvador City, the governor said the death toll was at least 16.
In Guadalayo, the capital, authorities said 15 buildings collapsed.
In Villaherms, the province capital, officials said 10 buildings had fallen.
The quake was felt as far away as the Caribbean island of St. Kitts and Nevis, according the US Geological Survey.
El Salvador’s national emergency authority said the quake hit at a depth of 8.9 miles (11 kilometers).
The city of Guadarrama, which lies about 100 miles (161 kilometers) southeast of the capital and sits on the Pacific coast, was hit hardest, with damage estimated at $5 billion to $7 billion.
The government said a building collapsed in Villahermelos neighborhood in the northern city of Sánchez, where residents say the buildings collapsed on them as they fled the area.
In the coastal city of San Cristobal, where more than 10 buildings were destroyed, the death rate was estimated at 15 per day.
Residents reported that after the earthquake, the roads had collapsed.
Residents of the city said they saw dozens of vehicles overturned and others toppled on the roads, as they were unable to get home.
Residents also said they were terrified and that the government had failed to respond to their concerns.
The United States Geological Survey reported the quake was centered around the citys capital of Guajataca.
It said the epicentre was about 9 miles (15 kilometers) northwest of Villa Chermas, about 120 miles (185 kilometers) northeast of Villa Lara.
The USGS said that at least 13 people were killed in El Salvador.
In Cajambi, a city of about 10,000 people, the president said at a news conference that at some point during the earthquake a building in one of the neighborhood’s buildings collapsed, killing two people and injuring seven.
The area was badly damaged, said a city official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the incident.
In neighboring Villaherma, authorities reported that five buildings in a commercial district collapsed.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake’s epicenter centered in San Cristobres.
The city’s mayor, Carlos Salas, said that the death and destruction of homes and businesses was caused by the collapse of a cement wall that fell after an early morning earthquake.
The wall collapsed at about 6 a.m. and sent a wall of concrete tumbling onto a home, he said.
He said he was able to evacuate the area by about 5:30 a.meters (about 20 meters).
El Salvador has suffered at least nine aftershocks this year, including one that triggered deadly landslides in January that killed more than 400 people.