LIMA Authorities in Peru rushed to rescue miners reportedly trapped in copper pits on Wednesday after an earthquake shook the coast - causing landslides, injuries and possibly deaths in rural provinces, local officials said.
Officials in the southern Arequipa region said they were told that people died after collapses in make-shift copper mines, which operate largely outside of the law. A magnitude 7 quake, capable of widespread, heavy damage, struck near Peru's southern coast a few minutes before midday on Wednesday.
However, they said they could not confirm the deaths.
"We have heard people have died near the mines Huarato and La Verde, which are small informal copper mines," Juan Flores, an official with the Acari district government, told Reuters.
Police and government officials were traveling to the remote mining area to help people reportedly trapped, Flores said.
Sources with the regional government of Arequipa told Reuters there were reports that three people had died at the mines.
Details remained sketchy as darkness fell, but the quake also reportedly toppled houses in a sparsely populated province in Peru's southern Arequipa region.
Large-scale mining operations in the region - at Southern Copper's Toquepala mine, Freeport-McMoRan's Cerro Verde mine, and Shougang Hierro Peru's iron-ore mine - carried on as usual after the quake, union leaders and a company representative told Reuters.
The quake struck 29 miles deep in the Pacific Ocean, 29 miles south of the district of Acari in the southern Arequipa region, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
Peruvian President Ollanta Humala said on RPP radio that around six people had been injured because of the earthquake, and that landslides and electrical blackouts had occurred.
Locals in Arequipa's Caraveli province reported structural damage.
"Houses have fallen, walls have fallen, especially those made out of adobe," Caraveli Mayor Santiago Neyra told RPP radio.
A local resident of Acari also told RPP radio that a landslide blocked a highway.
The quake shook buildings in the capital of Lima 313 miles away.
Peruvian authorities did not issue any tsunami alerts.
Onemi, Chile's national emergency service, said the quake was also felt in northern Chile, but no damage was reported.
(Reporting By Marco Aquino, Mitra Taj, and Patricia Velez; additional reporting by Rosalba O'Brien in Santiago and Miguel Zegarra in Arequipa; editing by Christopher Wilson, Stacey Joyce and Leslie Gevirtz)