Strong quake shakes Chile, no damage reported
(Reuters) – A powerful 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck near Chile’s eastern port of Valparaiso early on Tuesday, shaking buildings as far away as the capital Santiago, but there were no reports of significant damage and the country’s main copper mines were unaffected.
One elderly man died as a result of a heart attack brought on by the quake, which struck 26 miles north-northeast of Valparaiso, and 69 miles northwest of the capital Santiago, but there were no other reports of injuries.
State emergency office ONEMI said a stretch of coastline was being evacuated as a precaution, but there was no tsunami alert.
Rodrigo Ubilla, an Interior Ministry undersecretary, said there had been no reports of damage to public or private infrastructure, although state television said several thousand homes were without power outside Santiago.
The governor of the Valparaiso region, Raul Celis, said one elderly man died from a heart attack during the quake, which the U.S. Geological Survey said occurred at 50 minutes after midnight (0350 GMT). The USGS recorded an aftershock of 5.1 magnitude 13 minutes later.
The first quake was measured at a depth of 23 miles.
Apartment buildings in Santiago shook heavily, and residents opened doors as a precaution to clear potential escape routes. Local television broadcast images of lamps swinging in homes in the capital.
Local media said basic services like power and telecommunications continued to operate normally, but Ubilla said the government had asked regional authorities to keep the evacuation in place for now as a precaution.
State mining giant Codelco, the world’s No.1 copper producer, said it had evacuated its smelter in Ventanas as a precaution. But it said its operations were not impacted by Tuesday’s quake, as did global miner Anglo American.
State oil company ENAP also said its Bio Bio refinery was operating normally.
Chile is prone to earthquakes, and was hammered by a massive 8.8 magnitude tremor in early 2010 which ravaged the south-center of the country, devastating industries and triggering tsunamis, in a disaster that killed about 500 people.
The 2010 quake caused roughly $8 billion in insured losses and economic losses of at least twice that.
In the past two years, earthquakes have been a scourge of the insurance industry. In addition to Chile, quakes in Japan and New Zealand in 2011 caused record-breaking losses in the tens of billions of dollars. Mexico has also been rattled by a series of strong quakes in recent weeks.