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Powerful earthquake hits central Chile
US Geological Survey charts quake at a magnitude of 7.1 as government evacuates coastline, but says tsunami unlikely.
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2012 04:05

A magnitude 7.1 earthquake has hit central Chile, 103 kilometres (64 miles) northwest of the town of Talca, the US Geological Survey said.

Hundreds of people ran into the streets in Talca in panic during the quake, which was felt for nearly a minute on Sunday.

In its first quake damage report, the Office of National Emergencies said one person was injured in a car accident in the Bio Bio region.

"For now we do not have reports of any fatalities. There is some evidence of people injured, unfortunately from pieces of walls that fell," Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter said.

Chilean news media reported electrical blackouts and broken phone lines in the area around Talca, 300km south of the capital, Santiago.

Some injuries were reported from falling debris in the interior of a Catholic church in Santiago.

"We were at mass when material started falling," a priest told the local media. "People became frightened and left."

The USGS initially reported the quake's magnitude as 7.2 but later downgraded it to 7.1.

The government's emergency agency, ONEMI, said it was preventively evacuating some areas of the coast due to fears of a tsunami, but it later canceled the order when naval experts said there was no chance of a tidal wave.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, taking note of the earthquake in Chile, said "a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected."

The earthquake struck at a depth of 10 km and occured at 22:37GMT, according to the USGS.

An 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck a nearby area in 2010 that killed about 500 people.

Magnitude 7.0 quakes or greater are capable of causing widespread and heavy damage.

Source:
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