The 7.6 magnitude quake lasted for about 30 seconds, knocking people to the ground near the epicenter around the Pacific beach town of Cangrejal at 8:42 a.m. local time.
“I’ve never felt anything like this. We just couldn't stay standing,” Rosa Pichardo told The Associated Press. She was walking with her family when the quake struck. “My feet gave out under me. It was terrible, terrible.”
But Costa Rica’s President Laura Chinchilla said that there were no reports of major damage anywhere in the country and urged residents to remain calm.
Engineers quickly inspected hospitals and other buildings during the hours after the quake, which left many structures with damaged or cracked exteriors.
The shaking was also felt in neighboring Nicaragua and Panama.
Wednesday’s temblor was the most powerful in Costa Rica since a 7.6 magnitude quake left 47 dead in 1991. A 6.1 magnitude earthquake in January 2009 killed 40.