A powerful earthquake measuring 7.7 magnitude locally and 7.5 by the U.S. Geological Survey hit Peru's southern coast Wednesday evening, killing at least 48 people.
In a nationally televised address, President Alan Garcia declared the province of Ica in a state of emergency.
Carlos Cordova, chief of Peru's fire department, told Channel 5 television that at least 48 were killed and 350 injured.
While Peru's deputy health minister Jorge Calderon said the death toll has reached a minimum of 72 and the injured about 700.
In his TV address, Garcia sent condolences to the families of the quake's victims and asked citizens to stay calm and remain vigilant to aftershocks.
Garcia ordered all Peruvian hospitals to be on red alert, so as to receive the injured at all times. Schools across the country will suspend classes since Thursday to ensure safety in schoolhouses.
He also asked telecommunication companies to do rush repairs to make the service return to normal as soon as possible.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck at 6:41 p.m. (2341 GMT) about 150 km southeast of the capital Lima, and was followed by two strong aftershocks measuring 5.8 and 5.9 magnitudes respectively.
Local TV, however, cited Peru's geophysical institute as saying that the epicenter was 120 km southwest of Lima.
Local TV also reported the quake knocked out telephone services and mobile phone service in Lima. Parts of several cities in southern Peru had been hit with blackouts.
Radio stations said there was a fire in a shopping center in the capital.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center based in Hawaii issued a tsunami warning for South America's Pacific coasts based on the strength of the earthquake in Peru, but cancelled the alerts after about two hours.
It said the tremor had caused an estimated 25-centimeter tsunami near the epicenter.