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Magnitude 7.6 earthquake strikes off Central America, USGS says

One of the strongest earthquakes to hit the Caribbean in modern times struck off the coast of Honduras on Tuesday night, shaking the mainland and setting off tsunami warnings that were canceled about an hour later.

There were no early reports of serious damage or casualties on land after the quake struck shortly before 10 p.m. EST. Officials in Honduras said shaking was registered across much of the nation and there were some reports of cracks in homes in Colon and Atlantida provinces along the northern coast and Olancho in eastern Honduras.

Tsunami centers issued advisories and warnings for Puerto Rico, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands as well as on the coasts of Mexico and Central America, cautioning that sea levels could rise from a foot to 3 feet above normal, but no tsunami materialized. 

The United States Geological Service (USGS) said the 7.6 magnitude quake struck in the Caribbean Sea between the coast of Honduras and the Cayman Islands.  The quake was centered about 125.4 miles north/northeast off the coast of Barra Patucca, Honduras, and located about 25 miles from Honduras' Swan Islands -- which are not populated except for a small navy post.

USGS said the quake was very shallow (6.2 miles) which amplifies its effect.

Another look at the earthquake map as seen Tue., Jan. 9, 2018. USGS

The National Weather Service in Puerto Rico earlier in the night urged "persons located in/near the ocean" to move away from the water, off the beach and away from the harbor:

PTWC officials are in the process of canceling a tsunami advisory for Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

The Associated Press writes that the northern coast of Honduras closet to the epicenter is sparsely populated -- much of it covered by nature reserves. Some in the capital of Tegucigalpa said they did not feel the quake.

President Juan Orlando Hernandez wrote on Twitter that Honduras activated its emergency system and asked people to remain calm.

AP writes that Puerto Rico's public safety secretary Hector Pesquera said that authorities were monitoring the coastlines of 46 municipalities on the U.S. territory.

"It's important that people do not go into the water and stay away from the shoreline," Pesquera said.

USGS originally documented the earthquake as magnitude 7.8.

This is a developing story, please check back for latest updates.

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