The debris from damaged buildings are pictured after an earthquake in El Galpon, northwest Argentina.

Buenos Aires: A 5.9-magnitude earthquake shook northern Argentina today, knocking down a school, destroying houses and killing at least one person, authorities and seismologists said.

The quake hit the mountainous, mostly dry province of Salta at 8:33 am (1133 GMT), the seismic institute Inpres reported. It had a depth of eight kilometers (five miles), the US Geological Survey said.

"Thank God it hit on Saturday because the children were not at the school that collapsed in Salta," said Hector Romero, mayor of the town of El Galpon, where a woman was killed.

"Things look pretty bad. Houses have collapsed. There are people who have lost everything and power and water service is out."

The earthquake was also felt in the neighboring provinces of Santiago del Estero and Tucuman.

The area is 1,300 kilometers north of Buenos Aires.