The tremor occurred in a sparsely populated region of the Amazon rainforest, some 45 kilometres northwest of the city of Barranca, the Euro-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said.
While it was extremely strong, at a depth around 110km it was also relatively deep underground – which typically limits damages and casualties but results in tremors being felt in a larger area.
Authorities in neighbouring Ecuador said the quake was felt in 19 of its 24 provinces – and the EMSC received multiple accounts from people who felt minor quakes in Colombia, more than 1,000km from the epicentre.
The US Tsunami Warning System said there was no tsunami expected.
Only three minor injuries were immediately reported, in Chachapoyas province, where a local mayor said several houses were damaged and a church tower forming part of a 16th-century complex – considered to be the oldest Catholic temple in the Amazonas region – was reduced to rubble.
The earthquake also “caused damage to an as yet undetermined number of homes” in the Amazon districts of Valera, San Jeronimo and Leimebamba, Peru’s National Civil Defense Institute (Indeci) said.
There was some damage to homes in Ecuador but no injuries, authorities said.
No damage was reported to the 1,100km oil pipeline of state-owned Petroperu which crosses the Peruvian Amazon region to the Pacific coast in the north.
The earthquake took place within the Nazca plate at the Peru-Chile trench, where large earthquakes at this depth “are reasonably common”, the US Geological Survey said.
Over the past century, there have been five other intermediate-depth earthquakes within 250km of the epicentre of Sunday’s tremor with a magnitude of 7 or greater, according to the US government agency.
The most recent of these was a magnitude 8 earthquake which struck on 26 May 2019 and, according to the government, killed two people and injured 15 others while damaging hundreds of homes, leaving many families homeless.
Roads, schools and temples were also damaged in the 2019 quake, and two road bridges collapsed, Peru’s National Emergency Operations Centre said.
Additional reporting by agencies