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Strong earthquake rattles Central America as hurricane makes landfall

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake in the Pacific has shaken El Salvador and Nicaragua with officials issuing a tsunami alert. The quake hit an hour after Category 2 Hurricane Otto made landfall on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast.

A Pacific Ocean earthquake with a 7.0 magnitude struck off the coast of El Salvador at 12:43 p.m. (1843 UTC) on Thursday, officials said.

Shaking could be felt in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua as well as the Costa Rican capital San Jose.

The epicenter of the quake was 95 miles (153 kilometers) southwest of the coast of El Salvador at a depth of 33 kilometers (20 miles), the US Geological Survey said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said "hazardous tsunami waves were possible for coasts located within 300 kilometers (186 miles) of the earthquake epicenter" but in the event, they failed to materialize. 

Following the earthquake, there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

Nicaragua's president Daniel Ortega declared a state of emergency in his country due to the earthquake and the hurricane, a government spokeswoman said. Nicaraguan civil protection officials said the hurricane, which was moving west at 12 mph (19 kph), damaged homes and telephone lines but that there had not been reports of any victims.

An hour before the earthquake, the powerful Hurricane Otto made landfall on Nicaragua's Carribean coast where thousands had already been evacuated into shelters. The Category 2 storm brought winds of 175 kilometers (110 miles).

rs/kl (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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