SAN JOSE, Costa Rica: A powerful earthquake rocked Costa Rica on Wednesday, rattling buildings, cutting power in areas of the capital and triggering a tsunami warning, though there were no immediate reports of casualties.
Residents of San Jose said phones went down, electricity poles rattled on the streets and water flowed out of pools after the 7.6-magnitude quake, but Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla said on her official Twitter account that there are no reports of loss of life or structural damage so far.
Locals were shocked by the force of the quake.
"I was inside my car at a stop sign and all the sudden everything started shaking. I thought the street was going to break in two," said Erich Johanning, a 30-year-old who works in Internet marketing in San Jose. "Immediately I saw dozens of people running out of their homes and office buildings."
The quake caused some damage to buildings and infrastructure but nothing major, local authorities said. There were no immediate signs that the event had sparked a tsunami.
The quake's epicenter was in western Costa Rica about 87 miles (140 km) from San Jose, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said, and it was felt as far away as Managua, the capital of neighboring Nicaragua.
The Guanacaste region around the epicenter is known for its beaches, surf and volcanoes. It has several nature and marine reserves and is less tropical than the rest of the Central American nation, with stretches of open savannah and mountains.
"People are very frightened and staying in their homes," said Eliecer Gonzalez, commercial director of a local newspaper in the Guanacaste region. "We are very isolated and have no power."
There was an early report of damage to the Hotel Riu Guanacaste on Matapalo beach in Guanacaste, situated on the extreme tip of the Osa Peninsula.
But America Nava, a reservations clerk with Riu in Mexico, said the hotel had only been evacuated. "There is no damage to the hotel, they are checking it to make sure everything is in order. As soon as that is finished, the guests will return."
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for Pacific coastlines of Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. It had earlier warned of tsunamis for as far afield as Mexico and Peru.
"It was terrible. I was on the third floor, I had never felt anything like it," said Stephanie Gonzalez, a 25-year-old masters student in the Costa Rican capital.
It was the biggest earthquake in Costa Rica since a 7.6 quake in 1991 left 47 dead. More recently, 40 people died in a 6.1 magnitude quake in January 2009.