7.1 magnitude earthquake strikes Araucanía, Chile; no tsunami warning

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Sunday, January 2, 2011

File photo of Tirúa. Aerial view.
Shakemap of the earthquake.
Image: United States Geological Survey.

A strong earthquake struck central and southern Chile on Sunday evening. The earthquake reached a magnitude of 7.1, and occurred at 20:20:16 UTC (17:20:16 local time), at a depth of 16.9 kilometers, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The earthquake was centered near the town of Tirúa; 70 kilometers northwest of Temuco, Araucanía Region; 90 kilometers south-southeast of Lebu, Bío Bío Region; 130 kilometers southwest of Los Ángeles, Bío Bío; and 595 kilometers south-southwest of Santiago, Santiago Metropolitan Region.

"At coastal locations which have experienced strong ground shaking, local tsunamis are possible due to underwater landslides," the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement. Radio Bío Bío reported that the Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service of the Chilean Navy had ruled out the possibility of a tsunami in Chilean coasts. However, according to ADN Radio, coastal zones are undergoing precautionary evacuations.

The National Office of Emergency of the Interior Ministry reported that there were power outages, although some of these appear to have been controlled outages, where power was purposefully cut to access damage. The earthquake was felt from the O'Higgins Region to the Araucanía, in cities such as Rancagua and Talca. The earthquake was also reportedly felt in Temuco, where officials at the city's airport said it caused no damage. According to Vicente Núñez, director of ONEMI, this earthquake "is not related to the February 27, 2010 one."

The University of Chile Seismological Service reported that the earthquake occurred offshore Lebu, 149 kilometers west of Tirúa, at a depth of 29.5 kilometers, and that it reached a magnitude of 6.5. The service later updated the magnitude to 6.9.

Many aftershocks have been reported by residents in the area, although only one has been reported by the University of Chile Seismological Service: a magnitude 5.3 seism that occurred 54 kilometers northwest of Tirúa, at a depth of 32.1 kilometers.

"[I'm] arriving at the National Emergencies Office, [in order] to monitor consequences [of] tremors in the south and the needs of the people," President Sebastián Piñera (@sebastianpinera) said on Twitter. Piñera announced in a press conference that the National Emergencies Office "would be reorganized into a new agency."

Several other seisms have occurred throughout the day in Chile: a magnitude 3.7, east of Valparaíso; a 4.7, and a 3.7 magnitude seism centered west of Pichilemu, O'Higgins Region; a 3.6 tremor centered northwest of Los Vilos, Coquimbo Region; and a 4.7 seism that occurred northwest of Talca, Maule.

It was reported at 19:25 local time (22:25 UTC) that electricity has been restored almost completely in the Tirúa area.


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