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LIMA, Peru, Aug. 16 — A powerful earthquake shook Peru Wednesday night, killing at least 437 people, Civil Defense authorities said today. Another 1,350 were injured, according to Peru’s Health Ministry.

Most of the reported dead were in the Ica region, south of the capital, which emergency workers said appeared to be the area that was hardest hit. The earthquake, whose magnitude was variously estimated at 7.7 to 7.9, was centered off Peru’s Pacific shore near Ica.

Many people were killed in the rubble of their homes, and some 300 people were in a cathedral when it collapsed. Emergency workers said the overall death toll from the quake, which struck at 6:40 p.m. local time, might be even greater.

In addition to the killed and injured, the Center of Emergency Operations of Civil Defense said more than 16,500 people had been displaced or otherwise affected by the quake. It was not immediately clear how many foreigners may have been among the casualties. News agencies carried reports that at least one American was known to have died.

The city of Ica was blacked out, as were smaller towns along the coast south of Lima, and many of the areas hit lost telephone service. Rescue workers reported difficulty getting to Ica and the coastal towns because of cracks in highways and downed power lines.

Three hospitals and a clinic in Ica were flooded with people seeking aid, and some of the injured were being attended to in hallways, according to local media reports.

In the hard-hit port city of Pisco according to local media reports, a cathedral was destroyed with some 300 people were inside attending mass at the time the building fell.

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