7.1-Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Chile, No Injuries

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the central coastal area of Chile on Sunday, some 70 kilometres northwest of Temuco, the U.S. Geological Survey said. There were no immediate reports of major damage or injury. The quake, which struck around 5:20 p.m. (3:20 p.m. ET), was felt as far away as Santiago, roughly 595 km north of where the USGS said the quake occurred. The epicentre was more than 10 miles underground, the USGS said.

Roughly 91,000 people felt very strong shaking, according to USGS estimates. Loreto Henriquez, manager of the Holiday Inn Express in Temuco, felt the quake for about a minute, describing it as loud and strong. She said people ran into the streets, but did not report any major damage. CNN Chile similarly reported no immediate injuries or damage. The temblor cut some telephone and electricity lines, according to Chile’s national emergency office, which did not provide any further detail.

Hundreds of people in coastal areas fled to higher ground for fear of a tsunami, but no alert was issued. “Up until now we don’t have any reports of injuries, there’s no damage, just overloaded telephone lines and some partial power cuts,” said Chile’s national emergency agency (Onemi) director Vicente Nunez. “We’ve told people to go back to their houses because there’s no tsunami alert.” (BBC)

Freelance journalist Jorge Fernando Garreton told CBC News from Santiago that because Chile has experienced large quakes in the past, “a 7.1 magnitude earthquake is liveable and it can be resisted.” Some areas around the Araucania region are without electricity and water, he said. He also said his mother, who owns a lakeside cottage about 25 kilometres from where the quake struck, said “the land shook up and down intensely for about 30 seconds or so.” (CBC)

Soon after the quake, a 5.0-magnitude aftershock rattled the area around 6:10 p.m. (4:10 p.m. ET), striking some 110 km northwest of Temuco.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said no widespread tsunami threat exists, but did not rule out the possibility of local tsunamis close to the quake’s epicentre.

In February 2010, an 8.8-magnitude quake hit Chile near the nation’s second largest city, Concepcion, killing hundreds. Sunday’s quake struck roughly 160 kilometres south of Concepcion.

Chile, the world’s top copper producer, has seen its economy surge on heavy spending to rebuild cities ravaged by last February’s quake and record prices for its main export. Operations were normal at the Andean division of Chilean copper miner Codelco after the last tremor, a spokeswoman said. State energy company ENAP said operations were also running as usual at the nation’s top Bio oil refinery, which was badly damaged by last year’s major quake.

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