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Strong earthquake jolts Chile's north coast

Over 100,000 people evacuated but no injuries or major damage reported.

Last updated: 17 Mar 2014 01:32
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Chile is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries [Reuters]

A strong 6.7-magnitude earthquake shook Chile's northern Pacific shore, and authorities said more than 100,000 people briefly evacuated some coastal areas as a precaution. Only minor damage was reported.

The US Geological Survey originally reported the quake at a 7.0 magnitude but later revised the reading down. The tremor struck offshore about 6:16 pm local time (21:16 GMT) on Sunday, at a depth of 20kms.

Its epicenter was 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of Iquique, Chile, the Associated Press news agency reported.

The USGS said the earthquake was followed by a 5.1 tremor and three 4.9 quakes in the same area.

Chile's navy said there had been a possibility of a minor tsunami between the northern towns of Arica and Tocopilla, so authorities urged people to evacuate along a stretch of coast where the Arica and Parinacota region adjoins the Tarapaca region.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there did not appear to be a threat of a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami. Franz Schmauck, Arica and Parinacota regional director of Chile's ONEMI emergency services office, told state TV that no damage was registered except for broken windows on some homes.

ONEMI's national director, Ricardo Toro, told reporters later that about 80,000 people were evacuated in the Tarapaca region, 3,000 in Arica and Parinacota region and 22,000 in Antofagasta region. He said the sea had risen only about 32 centimeters (almost 13 inches).

He navy said the evacuation alert was lifted about three hours after the initial quake.

"We had a fright but we're constantly monitoring," Arica and Parinacota Gov. Emilio Rodríguez said.

Chile is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries. A magnitude-8.8 quake and the tsunami it unleashed in 2010 killed more than 500 people, destroyed 220,000 homes, and washed away docks, riverfronts and seaside resorts.

The strongest earthquake ever recorded also happened in Chile, a magnitude-9.5 tremor in 1960 that killed more than 5,000 people.

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