Strong earthquake hits Chile
A powerful 7.1 earthquake strikes central Chile without causing injuries or damage.
Last Modified: 03 Jan 2011 00:55 GMT


 A powerful 7.1 earthquake strikes central Chile without causing injuries or damage

A strong 7.1 magnitude earthquake has hit central Chile, driving tens of thousands panicked residents from their homes due to fears of a tsunami but causing no injuries or damage, officials said.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or damage, and Vicente Nunez, head of the National Emergency Office, said no tsunami alert was issued.

Sunday's quake struck the town of Tirua almost 70 km northwest of Temuco at 5:21 pm local time (2021 GMT), the director of the country's Onemi emergency office said.

It struck at a depth of about 17km, according to the US Geological Survey, and there was at least one aftershock of 5.0-magnitude.

"Up until now we don't have any reports of injuries, there's no damage, just overloaded telephone lines and some partial power cuts. We're continuing to monitor the situation," Onemi chief Vicente Nunez said.

He said the possibility of a tsunami along the Pacific coastline had been ruled out and urged coastal residents who rushed to higher ground to return to their homes.

"We've told people to go back to their houses because there's no tsunami alert," he said, noting that the larger quake had been followed by a 5.0 magnitude aftershock.

Voluntary evacuation

In the communities of La Araucania, Puerto Saavedra, Tolten and Teodoro Smith, an estimated 50,000 people voluntarily evacuated to higher ground, according to Nunez.

The US Geological Survey reported the quake as 7.1-magnitude, slightly stronger than the 6.9 magnitude recorded by the seismology service at the University of Chile.

Last February, an 8.8-magnitude earthquake caused tsunami waves that devastated coastal towns in the same area of the South American country, killing more than 500 people and damaging infrastructure across much of south-central Chile.

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 latest tremor, a spokeswoman said.

State energy company ENAP said operations were also running as usual at the nation's top Bio Bio oil refinery, which was badly damaged by last year's major quake.

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