A powerful earthquake shook Venezuela's northeastern coast on Tuesday, forcing residents in the capital to evacuate buildings and interrupting a pro-government rally in support of controversial economic reforms. The 7.3 quake was the largest to strike Venezuela since 1900, according to the US Geological Survey. But at a depth of some 76 miles, it appeared to have caused only limited damage even near its epicenter a few miles off the sparsely populated Cariaco peninsula stretching into the eastern Caribbean, the AP reports. The quake was felt as far away as Colombia's capital of Bogota, where authorities briefly closed the international airport to inspect for runway damage.
In Cumana, the biggest city near the quake's center, supermarket shelves came crashing down. In downtown Caracas, concrete from the top floors of the unfinished Tower of David skyscraper fell to the sidewalk, forcing firefighters to close off traffic. While the depth of the quake likely prevented tragedy, experts have long warned that Venezuela's cash-strapped government is ill-prepared to deal with a major natural disaster. Hospitals have scant supplies, many ambulances are grounded and food and water are among goods that have disappeared in a country suffering from inflation estimated by the International Monetary Fund to reach 1,000,000% this year.
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