A resident looks at debris around a home after an
earthquake and tsunami hit the northern port of Iquique
yesterday. A second quake has rocked the same area today.
Photo by Reuters
A powerful 7.6-magnitude earthquake has struck off
northern Chile but there were no reports of damage and a
precautionary tsunami alert along the coast and in neighboring
Peru was called off.
It was the strongest of several aftershocks that followed a
huge 8.2-magnitude quake blamed for six deaths in the same
region on Tuesday.
Chile's emergency office Onemi said there were no initial
reports of casualties or serious damage from the latest
President Michelle Bachelet, who had gone to the area to
inspect the damage from the earlier quake, was evacuated from
her hotel in the city of Arica.
"I was evacuated like all the citizens and we have come here
(to Arica's emergency office) to see if there is any way we
can help," she said late on Wednesday night.
The area is home to many of the biggest mines in Chile, the
world's top copper producer.
A spokeswoman for Glencore Xstrata's and Anglo American's
Collahausi mine said the "process of normalization" it was
following after Tuesday's quake was continuing without
Other mines could not immediately be reached for comment, but
they were generally unaffected by Tuesday's stronger quake.
Chile's arid, mineral-rich north is sparsely populated, with
most of the population concentrated in the port towns of
Iquique and Arica, near the Peruvian border.
The new quake was located 12 miles (19 km) south of Iquique
at a relatively shallow depth of 12.4 miles (20 km), the U.S.
Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that while there was
no widespread tsunami threat, the latest tremor could
generate a local tsunami.
The ports of Iquique, Arica, Patache, and Tocopilla remained
closed early on Thursday. Some of them ship metals,
suggesting exports and trade flows may be disrupted.
The bigger earthquake on Tuesday triggered a tsunami with
2-meter (7-foot) waves and officials said it caused six
More than 2,600 homes were damaged and fishing boats along
the northern coast were smashed up. However, most
infrastructure held up.
Chile is one of the most earthquake-prone areas of the world.
In 1960, southern Chile was hit by a 9.5 quake, the largest
in modern history.
Bachelet, who was sworn in as president less than a month
ago, is conscious of the stinging criticism she faced near
the end of her first term in office in 2010, when her
government was seen to have responded inadequately to a
massive 8.8-magnitude quake and tsunami that killed 526
Residents in the area of the latest quakes have been
expecting "the big one" for many years. The Nazca and South
American tectonic plates rub up against each other just off
the coast of Iquique, where a "seismic gap" has been building
An unusually large number of tremors in the area in recent
weeks had led authorities to reinforce emergency procedures,
while residents bought rations and prepared for an eventual
However, the mega-quake they had been fearing may still be
yet to happen, said Paul Earle, a seismologist at the U.S.
Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center.
"(Tuesday's) earthquake was not large enough to release the
stress on the whole area where they believe the seismic gap
is," he said earlier on Wednesday. "It's going to take some
time to evaluate the effect of this earthquake on that
region. But people should stay prepared."