Powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake strikes off Chile, felt in Santiago

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A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.1 has struck off the coast of central Chile, with shaking felt as far away as the capital Santiago, seismologists say. A tsunami warning was briefly in effect.

The earthquake, which struck at 6:38 p.m. local time on Monday, was centered about 38 kilometers (24 miles) west of Valparaíso, or 126 kilometers (78 miles) northwest of Santiago. It struck at a shallow depth of just 10 kilometers (6.2 miles).

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) put the preliminary magnitude of the earthquake at 7.1, up from an initial estimate of 6.9 by Chile’s National Seismological Center.

Strong shaking was felt across the region, prompting Chile’s National Office of Emergency of the Interior Ministry (ONEMI) to order a precautionary evacuation of all coastal areas in the Valparaíso and O’Higgins regions. The warning was lifted after a short time and there is no threat of a tsunami.

There was no immediate reports of major damage or casualties, but transportation systems in Valparaíso and other areas were halted and power outages were reported in Valparaíso and Quilicura. Minor damage was reported at Santiago International Airport, among other places.

Computer models from the USGS estimated that up to 16.2 million people may have felt the earthquake, including 869,000 people who could have perceived strong shaking. “The population in this region resides in structures that are resistant to earthquake shaking, though vulnerable structures exist,” the USGS said.

Chile is on the so-called ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’ which is regularly struck by large earthquakes, including the Great Chilean earthquake that struck the coast of central Chile on May 22, 1960. The 9.5-magnitude earthquake – the largest earthquake ever instrumentally recorded – left thousands dead.

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