Costa Rica
Costa RicaUSGS

A strong earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale hit the west coast of Costa Rica on Wednesday, forcing people to run to the streets out of panic.

The earthquake caused the deaths of at least two people, damaging buildings, and briefly triggering a tsunami warning, reported Reuters.

The tremor struck at 14:42:10 UTC (20:12:10 IST) on Wednesday and the epicenter was located in western Costa Rica about 87 miles (140 km) from San Jose, according to United States Geological Survey.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for Pacific coastlines of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and as far as Mexico and Peru but was cancelled later.

Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla had called for calm and said that the tremor had not caused major damage.

A spokesman for the local Red Cross said two people died during the earthquake, one from a heart attack. He was not immediately able to confirm media reports the other person had been crushed under a collapsing wall, reported Reuters.

"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," Erich Johanning, a 30-year-old who works in Internet marketing in San Jose, told Reuters. "Immediately I saw dozens of people running out of their homes and office buildings."

"It was horrible, like being in a blender going round and round," said Selenia Obando, a receptionist at the Hotel Curime, Nicoya, said. "All the water sloshed out of the swimming pool. It's now about half full."

"The September 5th 2012 M 7.6 earthquake beneath the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, occurred as the result of thrust faulting on or near the subduction zone interface between the Cocos and Caribbean plates. At the latitude of this earthquake, the Cocos plate moves north-northeast with respect to the Caribbean plate at a velocity of approximately 77 mm/yr, and subducts beneath Central America at the Middle America Trench," reported USGS.

Costa Rica was hit by powerful earthquakes in the recent past. The quake in 1991 measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale killed 47 people and a 6.1 magnitude quake in 2009 killed 40.

(With Inputs from Reuters)