Chile earthquake: 7.1 tremor strikes off coast near capital Santiago

Chris Graham
Women and schoolchildren evacuate a building during the quake in Vina del Mar, Chile - AFP

  • Earthquake recorded near Santiago in Chile
  • Buildings shake in capital
  • No damage immediately reported
  • Evacuation cancelled as tsunami fears fade

 

A major earthquake of magnitude 7.1 struck off the west coast of Chile on Monday, rocking the capital Santiago and briefly causing alarm along the Pacific Coast but not producing any serious damage.

The quake was centered 22 miles west of the coastal city of Valparaiso at a shallow depth of 6.2 miles below the sea, and about 85 miles from Santiago, the US Geological Survey said.

"It was short but very powerful," said Paloma Salamo, a 26-year-old nurse, who was in a clinic in Vina del Mar, just north of Valparaiso, when the quake struck.

People ran out of the facility carrying children and some headed for the hills when the tsunami alarm sounded, she said, but calm was soon restored.

Officials cancelled a tsunami warning that had been issued in Valparaiso after the Chilean Navy and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said the quake was not expected to produce a dangerous seismic sea wave. The centre reported small tsunami waves of half a foot (15 cm).

There were no reports of structural damage in Valparaiso, but mobile phone networks were down in some places, a spokesman with the local government in Valparaiso said.

"We have no reports of victims or significant damage. There have been some landslides in some places, without major complications," said Interior Minister Mario Fernandez.

Vehicles are seen along a road after a mass evacuation of the entire coastline during a tsunami alert the magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit off the coast in Chile Credit: Reuters

"In general the situation is pretty normal bearing in mind the quake's intensity."

A magnitude 7.1 quake is considered major and is capable of causing widespread and heavy damage, but the effects of this one would have been tempered because it was offshore.

Several aftershocks including two of of magnitudes 5.0 and 5.4 were recorded in the same spot and could be felt in Santiago, part of a cluster of tremors from that area in recent days.

Chile, located on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire," has a long history of deadly quakes, including a 8.8 magnitude quake in 2010 off the south-central coast, which also triggered a tsunami that devastated coastal towns. More than 500 people died.

At a glance | Deadly earthquakes over five years

That was the sixth-largest earthquake ever recorded, according to the USGS. The largest recorded temblor in history was also in Chile, a 9.5-magnitude quake in 1960.

A major 7.6 magnitude earthquake jolted southern Chile on Christmas Day 2016, prompting thousands to evacuate coastal areas, but no fatalities or major damage were reported in the tourism and salmon farming region.

The long, slender country runs along the border of two tectonic plates, with the Nazca Plate beneath the South Pacific Ocean pushing into the South America Plate, a phenomenon that also formed the Andes Mountains. 

 

12:27AM

Scenes from the evacuation

Women and schoolchildren evacuate a building during a 7.1 magnitude quake in Vina del Mar, Chile on Monday Credit: AFP
Students in Santiago are evacuated after the 7.1 magnitude quake Credit: EPA
People remain in the street after the 7.1 quake in Vina del Mar, Chile Credit: AFP

12:17AM

The fault that caused the quake

For those interested in the science of earthquakes, seismologist Stephen Hicks has shared a handy graphic showing the fault where the latest tremor occurred.

12:09AM

Quake felt in Argentina

The quake was reportedly felt more than 600 miles away in Cordoba province and other parts of neighbouring Argentina.

While Chile has suffered some devastating earthquake in the past, seismologists say the South American country's heavy investment in structural reinforcement of buildings has helped reduce the damage from even strong quakes. 

12:05AM

People took to high ground

People look out towards the ocean on Cerro Castillo hill after the mass evacuation over tsunami fears in Chile Credit: Reuters
People stand and watch the ocean in Chile before the threat of a tsunami after the 7.1 quake passed Credit: Reuters

11:50PM

Mobile phone networks down

A spokesman with the local government in Valparaiso said there were no reports of structural damage so far, but mobile phone networks were down in some places.

Chile's state-run Codelco, one of the largest copper mining companies in the world, said its operations were unaffected, Reuters reported.

11:43PM

Video of moment quake struck

This was the moment when the quake rattled the city of Valparaiso.

11:38PM

Valparaiso shaken

 Valparaiso, which is 20 miles from the quake's epicentre, was severely jolted by the quake, CNN Chile reports..

11:34PM

Aftershocks reported

While a magnitude 7.1 quake is capable of causing widespread destruction, the effects of this quake would have been tempered because it was offshore.

At least two aftershocks of magnitudes 5.0 and 5.4 were recorded in the same spot and could be felt in Santiago, Reuters reported. 

The long, slender country runs along the border of two tectonic plates, with the Nazca Plate beneath the South Pacific Ocean pushing into the South America Plate, a phenomenon that also formed the Andes Mountains. 

11:30PM

Evacuation cancelled after tsunami fears

Chilean authorities initially ordered a preventative evacuation of the coastal area near Valparaiso, some 60 miles west of Santiago, in case of a tsunami, but cancelled it shortly afterwards.

The Chilean Navy and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake was not expected to cause a tsunami.

11:28PM

No damage reported

Chile's emergency services office says no damage to infrastructure has been immediately reported and authorities are discounting the possibility of a tsunami.

The country is highly earthquake-prone. A devastating 8.8-magnitude quake and the tsunami it unleashed in 2010 killed more than 500 people. It was among the strongest ever recorded.

11:20PM

Tremor shakes buildings in capital

The quake was centered 20 miles west of the coastal city of Valparaiso at a depth of 20.5 miles below the seabed. 

Witnesses said it shook buildings in the capital, Reuters reported.

11:17PM

Quake strikes off Chile coast

A strong earthquake has struck off the west coast of Chile near the capital Santiago.

The US Geological Survey initially said it was a magnitude of 6.7, before upgrading it to 7.1, which is  capable of causing severe damage. 

 

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