25 Apr 2017

7.1-magnitude quake strikes off coast of Chile

10:48 am on 25 April 2017

A strong 7.1-magnitude earthquake has struck off the west coast of Chile, but was not expected to cause a tsunami.

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Photo: 123rf

The quake, which Reuters witnesses said shook buildings in the capital, was centered 32 km west of the coastal city of Valparaiso at a depth of 10km below the seabed. The the U.S. Geological Survey initially assessed the temblor as a magnitude 6.6, before revising the magntidue upwards.

It was followed soon afterwards by two aftershocks - measuring 5.0 and 5.4 - which hit in the same region.

Chilean authorities initially ordered a preventative evacuation of the coastal area near Valparaiso, in case of a tsunami, but canceled it shortly afterward.

The Chilean Navy and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake was not expected to cause a tsunami.

The initial assessment by Chile's emergency services was that the quake appeared to have caused no immediate damage.

A magnitude 7.1 quake is considered major and is capable of causing widespread and heavy damage, but the effects of this one would have been tempered because it was offshore.

Chile, located on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire," has a long history of deadly quakes, including a 8.8 magnitude quake in 2010 off the south-central coast, which also triggered a tsunami that devastated coastal towns. More than 500 people died.

That was the sixth-largest earthquake ever recorded, according to the USGS. The largest recorded temblor in history was also in Chile, a 9.5-magnitude quake in 1960.

A major 7.6 magnitude earthquake jolted southern Chile on Christmas Day 2016, prompting thousands to evacuate coastal areas, but no fatalities or major damage were reported in the tourism and salmon farming region.

The long, slender country runs along the border of two tectonic plates, with the Nazca Plate beneath the South Pacific Ocean pushing into the South America Plate, a phenomenon that also formed the Andes Mountains.

- Reuters