March 26th, 2012
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Earthquake rocks Chile

chile-quakeSantiago: An earthquake of 7.1 magnitude on the ritcher scale struck central Chile at 7:30 p.m, the U.S. Geological Survey in Washington said. There were no immediate reports of deaths or major damage. Most people said it is the strongest and longest quake they experienced since the quake that devastated the area two years ago. The U.S. agency initially put the magnitude of the tremor at 7.2 while Chilean authorities measured it at 6.8. The quake’s epicentre was in the Maule region of Chile, 27 kilometres north-west of Talca, a city of more than 200,000 people , and about 220 kilometres south-west of the capital, Santiago.

Buildings swayed in Chile’s capital 136 miles (219 kilometres) to the north, and people living along a 480-mile (770-kilometre) stretch of Chile’s central coast were briefly warned to head for higher ground. Panic also struck in Santiago and other cities, with people running out of skyscrapers, and many neighbourhoods were left partly or totally without electrical power. Phone service was disrupted by heavy use. Chilean news media reported electrical blackouts and broken phone lines in the area around Talca, 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of the capital, Santiago.

“There are some injuries but nothing serious,” said Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter, who was serving as acting president while Sebastian Pinera is on tour in Asia. Hinzpeter said authorities were conducting a thorough survey of the affected regions to look for damage.

The Chilean navy’s hydrographic and oceanographic service and the national emergency office called off the tsunami warning shortly after an analysis showed the quake wasn’t the type to provoke a tsunami.

But hundreds of coastal residents were staying away from the shore, remembering how the government said there would be no tsunami just before huge waves struck after the 2010 quake, killing 156 of the 524 victims of that disaster. As aftershocks rattled the region, many people living inland didn’t want to go back inside their homes, either.

Authorities ordered the evacuation of the central coast of Chile — the same area devastated in 2010, when officials were criticized for waiting too long to allow residents to escape a tsunami. Government spokesman Andres Chadwick said the Office of National Emergencies had issued the evacuation order as a precaution due to “observation of a certain intake of the sea.”

Adressing the citizens Vice-President Rodrigo Hinzpeter said, “I want to call upon citizens to be calm. It was a major quake, but it’s over.”


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