13 Mar 2010

New quake hits Chile as president sworn in

12:29 pm on 13 March 2010

A series of aftershocks has hit Chile as the country's new president Sebastian Pinera was sworn in.

The strongest was magnitude 6.9, at 11.39am on Thursday (local time), the US Geological Survey says.

However, the ceremony, attended by several South American presidents and other dignitaries, continued as planned in the Congress building in the coastal city of Valparaiso, 140 kilometres south of the latest tremor's epicentre.

President Pinera says the aftershocks caused significant damage in the city of Rancagua, almost 100 kilometres south of the capital. There were no initial reports of fatalities.

In Constitucion, heavily damaged in last month's quake, residents scrambled for the hills when the navy issued a tsunami alert and ordered people away from beaches. The alert was lifted several hours later.

Chile's emergency head steps down

The head of Chile's national emergency office has resigned amid criticism of its handling of last month's earthquake.

Carmen Fernandez says she is stepping down so her office can regain its credibility.

Ms Fernandez is the second Chilean official to leave her post in the aftermath of the February quake and tsunami.

Outgoing president Michelle Bachelet dismissed the head of the navy's Oceanography Service for failing to provide a clear warning of the tsunami.