Strong quake jolts Chile; magnitude 6.8

Feb 12, 2011 By EVA VERGARA , Associated Press
Chile's President Sebastian Pinera, left, shakes hands with Vicente Nunez, director of the National Emergency Office, ONEMI, after a coordination meeting related with the magnitude-6.8 earthquake that hit southern Chile in Santiago, Chile, Friday, Feb. 11, 2011. No deaths or major damage has been reported. (AP Photo/Carlos Espinoza)

(AP) -- A magnitude-6.8 earthquake struck central Chile Friday, centered in almost exactly the same spot where last year's magnitude-8.8 quake spawned a tsunami and devastated coastal communities.

Electricity and phone service were disrupted and thousands of people fled to higher ground following Friday's , but the government quickly announced that there was no risk of a tsunami, and there were no reports of damage or injuries.

In the following hours, a dozen aftershocks ranging from magnitude-3.9 to magnitude-6.3 shook the seismically active area.

President Sebastian Pinera appealed for calm and praised his government and Chileans in general for responding quickly.

"Today we're better prepared," Pinera said. "I think we've learned the lesson of Feb. 27, 2010."

Rodrigo Ubilla, the vice interior minister, said the navy had "totally discounted any risk of a tsunami."

Still, the strong frightened many Chileans, especially along the coast, where people quickly moved to higher ground.

"There was a preventive self-evacuation," said Vicente Nunez, who directs the National Emergency Office, ONEMI. But he said Chileans could safely return home.

Residents fled their homes in Talcahuano, a port city whose center was ravaged last year by huge walls of water that sent shipping containers and fishing boats into downtown buildings and streets, municipal spokesman Javier Gonzalez told The Associated Press.

Skyscrapers swayed in the capital of Santiago, and in the inland town of Cauquenes, mothers ran into the streets carrying babies in their arms.

The 6.8 earthquake struck offshore, about 30 miles (45 kilometers) north of the city of Concepcion. The epicenter was relatively close to the coast, at 36 degrees south latitude and 73 degrees west longitude - almost exactly where the Feb. 27, 2010 earthquake was centered. Friday's quake was half as deep, at 11 miles (18 kilometers), as the devastating of Feb. 27, 2010.

And while last year's massive quake killed at least 521 people and left 200,000 homeless, this time it seemed that emerged relatively unscathed. Chilean officials measured movement in the ocean but said there was no risk of a tsunami.

The reason last year's quake generated a tsunami while Friday's quake at roughly the same spot didn't even spark a warning was largely a function of strength, with the 8.8-magnitude quake being about 800 times larger in terms of energy released, said Nathan Becker, an oceanographer at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

People in Talcahuano weren't taking any chances in any case. The compact city center is at the base of a bay and surrounded by hills, forming a bowl where the ocean drained and then came back with a vengeance last year.

Friday's quake caused a blackout in Concepcion, another city still recovering from last year's disaster. And across the country, Chileans jammed cell phone networks trying to make sure their families were OK.

In Cauquenes, a small town almost directly west of the epicenter, mothers ran into the streets carrying babies in their arms.

"I was really frightened. This is one of the strongest aftershocks we've had since last year's earthquake," said Ana Alarcon, who closed her small shop and took her two children in a search for her husband, who she couldn't reach by phone.

Explore further: Researchers construct a model of impact for El Nino / La Nina events

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Chile aftershocks could go on for years: scientists

Mar 05, 2010

Chileans will be feeling aftershocks from the devastating 8.8-magnitude earthquake for months and possibly years to come, scientists said Friday, as three strong tremors rocked the country.

7.7-magnitude quake hits off Indonesian island

Oct 25, 2010

(AP) -- A powerful earthquake hit off western Indonesia late Monday, briefly triggering a tsunami warning that sent thousands of panicked residents fleeing to high ground. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Major Pacific earthquake prompts tsunami warning

Mar 20, 2009

A major 7.9-magnitude earthquake has shaken the South Pacific nation of Tonga and sending people in low lying areas of Fiji fleeing for higher ground after a tsunami warning, according to officials.

Chile quake in 'elite class' like 2004 Asian quake

Feb 28, 2010

(AP) -- The huge earthquake that struck off the coast of Chile belongs to an "elite class" of mega earthquakes, experts said, and is similar to the 2004 Indian Ocean temblor that triggered deadly tsunami ...

Nine dead in Indonesian earthquake

Sep 12, 2007

Officials reported at least nine people were killed and more than 100 injured after a strong earthquake and an aftershock struck the Indian Ocean Wednesday.

Recommended for you

The ocean's living carbon pumps

13 hours ago

When we talk about global carbon fixation – "pumping" carbon out of the atmosphere and fixing it into organic molecules by photosynthesis – proper measurement is key to understanding this process. By ...

User comments : 0