A powerful earthquake struck Colombia, Tuesday, March 10th, at 3:55 pm, causing widespread nervousness in the capital Bogotá, as buildings were evacuated in relative calm.

The 6.6 magnitude earthquake, which lasted more than a minute, according to Colombia’s geological agency, INGEOMINAS,  quake had its epicenter in Mesa de los Santos, in the department of Santander; and was felt in Colombia’s second largest city, Medellin, along the Colombian coast, in the capital of Valle, Cali, and as far south a Neiva.

News reports coming in claim that the earthquake was also felt with intensity in Caracas, Venezuela.

There are reports of structural damage to buildings in Bogotá’s western neighbourhoods of Suba and Engativa.

After the initial scare, the Colombian capital has returned to an uneasy calm. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is holding an emergency cabinet meeting to analyse the situation across the nation, especially the conditions in the city of Bucaramanga, the largest urban center near the epicenter. According to residents of Bucaramanga, there is damage to the facade of one of the city’s main churches, the Sagrado Corazon de Jesus. There are reports of collapsed walls and damage to homes in the colonial towns of Aratoca, Betulia and Barichara in Santander.

Cellphone service was cut in Bogotá for several minutes after the quake, but has now returned, with disrupted service in many parts of the capital. National Police helicopters are conducting air patrols of the capital.

Office buildings in Medellín were also evacuated. According to eye witnesses, there was panic on the streets of Barranquilla, after buildings were quickly evacuated, including the Fiscalia and Mayoralty.

In Bogotá, firefighters are assessing the damage to several commercial shopping centers. In Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport, several roof tiles fell to the ground, and areas of the airport have been cordoned-off.

According to the Bogotá Fire Department, there is structural damage to the stairs of the city’s tallest building, Colpatria.

No fatalities have yet to be reported by the National Police, the Civil Defense and Bogotá Fire Department. According to the capital’s hospital network, there are no injuries from the Tuesday quake.

Colombians remain nervous as to possible aftershocks.

The Colombian Red Cross (CRC) – Cundinamarca and Bogotá Chapters – have activated two rescue response units after the quake which rattled Colombia, Tuesday. The CRC released recommendations on how to act before, during and after an earthquake:

 What to do before an earthquake?

Anticipate the danger, identifying high-risk areas of your home, school or workplace.

Be careful of heavy objects that can fall from walls and cause injury.

Get together with your family to define an emergency plan in case of an earthquake, as well as routes for an evacuation or possible shelter in your building.

Make sure you know the location of your water, gas and electricity outlets, and how to shut them off.

Always keep an emergency kit with a First Aid kit, radio and spare batteries, flashlight and whistle, extra food and water, checking frequently their expiry dates.

 What to do during an earthquake?

Stay calm. Do not run. Avoid panic as this can be as dangerous as the earthquake.

Enable your family emergency plan. Follow your previously established evacuation routes.

If you are inside a building and cannot get out, find a safe place to protect you.

If objects are collapsing, take cover under a sturdy table or desk.

Stay away from windows, bookcases, mirrors, hanging plants and other heavy objects that could fall.

Use the radio to follow recommendations from relief agencies.

 What to do after an earthquake?

Check the status of your house or workplace before re-entering.

If you see cracks, sloping walls or hear cracking noises do not enter until your residence has been reviewed by experts.

If you find yourself stuck, alert with cries, noises, or a whistle. If you can, use a cell phone. Keep mobile devices charged for an eventual aftershock.