6.2 magnitude earthquake hits northern Chile

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

USGS shake map of the earthquake.
Image: United States Geological Survey.

A strong earthquake struck the Atacama Region in Chile at 11:52 (14:52 UTC), provoking widespread hysteria. The United States Geological Survey reported that the tremor reached a magnitude of 6.2. The epicentre is located on the mainland 76 kilometers south of Copiapó and at a depth of 59 kilometers. However, the University of Chile Geological Survey reported that the seism reached a magnitude of 5.9.

Thousands of inhabitants of Copiapó ran evacuation plans in offices and schools. The seism set off many alarms in cars and enterprises, according to radio stations. Parents went to take their children out of the schools. It was reported earlier that cornices fell down from buildings, businesses lost merchandise and cellphone networks encountered problems in the area.

The ONEMI reported no damages or injuries, but some roads collapsed. Power and water distribution were not affected. Eva Cansino, ONEMI boss, told TVN that the citizens' reactions demonstrated particular sensitivity to seisms, and she pointed out that it helps to minimize the risks in similar situations. She added that this seism was not an aftershock of the February 27 Maule or March 11 Pichilemu earthquakes, which destroyed many places in the central and south areas of Chile.

Santiago felt the earthquake to a lesser degree. The earthquake was felt between the Antofagasta and O'Higgins regions.

ONEMI also reported the intensities of the seism in three regions according to the Mercalli scale:

Joaziel Jamett, from ONEMI, reported that the tsunami alert was discarded in the coast of the Atacama Region, at the 12:45 local time (15:45 UTC). "SHOA (Servicio Hidrográfico y Oceanográfico de la Armada de Chile / Chilean Army Hydrographic and Oceanographic Survey) has discarded any tsunami in the Atacama Region, therefore we have to keep the people quiet", reported Jamett to Bío Bío Radio.

Today marks one month from the earthquake and tsunami combo that hit the most of Chile central and south part. This is the second seism that has occurred in the north of Chile in the last few weeks, after the 6.3 on March 4.

Almost ten minutes before this earthquake, at 11:39:08 (14:39 UTC), another March 11 earthquake aftershock was felt between the O'Higgins and Bíobío regions. It reached 4.3 grades, and had a depth of 32.4 kilometers. The epicentre was located 16 kilometers at the southeast of Pichilemu. It lasted about 15 seconds. Another aftershock occurred at the 13:14 (16:14 UTC), reached 3.7 grades, had a depth of 10.8 kilometers, and the epicentre was located 12 kilometers at the east of Pichilemu. It lasted about 5 seconds.


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