Magnitude 5.4 quake shakes Venezuela coast town

CARACAS Fri Jan 15, 2010 2:22pm EST

CARACAS (Reuters) - A medium strength earthquake caused panic in the small eastern Venezuelan coastal town of Carupano on Friday and shook the nearby city of Puerto La Cruz, which contains an oil refinery, but no damage was reported.

The local seismological service said the quake measured 5.4 magnitude and hit at about 1:30 p.m. local time (2 p.m. EST) in a Caribbean coastal region.

The United States Geological Service reported the quake was of magnitude 5.6, at a relatively shallow depth of 7.3 miles. It happened 24 miles southwest of Carupano and was felt in Puerto La Cruz, where state oil company PDVSA has a refinery.

"People were very worried and ran into the streets because it felt very strong," Carupano resident Milagros Ordaz told Reuters by telephone. Cars wobbled on the roads in Puerto La Cruz, a witness said.

Sucre state Governor Enrique Maestre said the quake apparently caused no damage. PDVSA also said it had no immediate reports of damage after checking with the refinery and oil upgraders in the Orinoco heavy crude region.

Radio reports said the tremor was felt in a wide area stretching to the Caribbean island of Margarita, a popular holiday destination for European tourists.

Initial USGS reports had put the quake at 5.7 magnitude.

(Reporting by Patricia Rondon and Marianna Parraga; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by John O'Callaghan and Eric Beech)

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