CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ An earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale rattled the east coast of Venezuela for 20 seconds Wednesday, collapsing scores of shanty homes near Puerto La Cruz but injuring no one, authorities said.

The Cajigal Observatory in the capital, Caracas, said the epicenter of the quake, which struck at 9:47 a.m. EDT, was 90 miles southwest of the Caribbean island of Trinidad.

In Washington, the U.S. Geological Institute said the quake measured 6.2 on the Richter scale and was centered in the Venezuelan state of Sucre. There was no immediate explanation for the difference in the Richter scale numbers.

In Caracas, scores of people ran into the streets as windows in some buildings cracked.

''We felt the shaking a lot, everyone was nervous and frightened and I almost fainted,'' said Deyanira Leon, a secretary working in an office complex in eastern Caracas. ''We all waited out in the street for about 45 minutes.''

The tremor was also felt at the American Embassy, a four-floor compound in eastern Caracas. ''Some of us felt ... dizziness,'' an embassy secretary said.

Pablo Aguilera, editor of Diario de Oriente, a newspaper in Puerto La Cruz, 190 miles east of Caracas, said schools were closed in Barcelona, a twin city of Puerto La Cruz, and that some businesses shut for the day.

Aguilera said, ''Fishermen also felt the quake in the high seas.''

The last killer earthquake in Caracas occurred in 1967 in the same eastern area, where a geological fault is located. At least 100 people were killed or injured and several buildings collapsed.