updated 2/22/2006 8:53:33 PM ET 2006-02-23T01:53:33

A powerful earthquake struck Mozambique early Thursday morning, shaking buildings and forcing people from hundreds of miles around to dash into the streets for safety.

The magnitude-7.5 quake struck at 12:19 a.m. and was felt as far away as Durban, South Africa, and Harare, Zimbabwe, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Buildings swayed and doors shook in Maputo, the capital of the Indian Ocean nation of Mozambique, officials said.

There was no immediate word of injuries or damage there, but state radio said there was an unconfirmed report of a collapsed building in Beira, a coastal port 140 miles southwest of the epicenter.

In Beira, Tivoli Hotel manager Johana Neves said none of her guests was hurt but many tourists ran terrified from their rooms when the temblor struck.

“It felt like the building was going to fall down, and it went on for a long time, the trembling,” she said by telephone. “It felt like you were in a boat. It was shaking everything, yet, it’s strange, nothing is broken, even the windows.”

Fear in the streets
She said guests had returned to their rooms. But Antonio Dinis, who also was at the hotel, said the streets were full of people afraid to go back home or sleep.

Ready to rumble?In Maputo, hundreds of people fled their homes for the street, as they did in Chimoyo, some 300 miles from Beira near the border with Zimbabwe, the radio station said.

A newspaper editor in Maputo said he was in the 11th floor of an apartment building that was rocked by the quake.

“It shook a lot. We could feel it very strongly,” Fernando Velosa, editor of Jornal de Mocambique, told Lisbon radio station TSF. Portugal is the former colonial ruler of the African nation.

Shallow quake raises damage risk
The quake was shallow, which increases the potential for damage, said Dale Grant, a geophysicist with the USGS National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo., which is a clearinghouse for temblors worldwide.

A quake nearing magnitude 8 is capable of causing tremendous damage.

“It was felt very widely in in the epicentral area, though it’s not a very heavily populated area,” Grant said. “There is certain to be damage, but so far, we’ve had absolutely no word of damage.”

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