Powerful earthquake in Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile – An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.1 struck the central coast of Chile on Sunday, the longest and most powerful, according to several residents, since the powerful earthquake that devastated the country there two years.

This is the second major earthquake in as many days in central Chile, after that of 5.1 recorded Saturday morning in Santiago, the capital, and which caused no injuries or damage despite its location.

Authorities reported no quake-related victim or major damage. But in Parral, a town 370 kilometers south of Santiago, Mayor Israel Urrutia said that a woman of 74 years died of a heart attack during the earthquake.

Buildings were moved to Santiago, located 219 km north, and citizens living in an area covering 770 km, along the central coast of the country were advised to head for places in higher elevations.

Residents of Constitucion, strongly affected by the tsunami triggered by the earthquake of 8.8 magnitude in 2010, were particularly worrying. The panic was palpable in Santiago and other cities, people coming out as fast as skyscrapers. Sectors have been partially or completely without electricity and phone service was disrupted because of the many call attempts.

Inland, where aftershocks were felt, many people preferred to stay inside rather than return to their homes.

According to Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter, who acted as interim president in the absence of Sebastian Pinera, Asia, few people were injured, none seriously. Mr. Hinzpeter added that authorities were conducting tours of affected areas to assess the extent of damage.

Oceanic and hydrographic services of Chile and the National Emergency Operations withdrew a tsunami warning for much of the central coast after tests had shown that this earthquake was not the type to cause waves deadly.

But the alarm has been restored in the area closest to the epicenter after the police had noticed that the ocean had receded about 40 meters from the shore in the cities of Iloca and Duao. Such a phenomenon sometimes is a precursor to a tsunami.

As a preventive measure, and also because they remembered the events of 2010, many coastal residents stayed away from the coast. Two years ago, the Chilean government had said there would be no tsunami but shortly after this assessment, strong waves hit, causing 156 deaths among the 524 victims of the disaster.

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