Monday, March 26, 2012

Chile orders evacuation after strong quake

SANTIAGO: A 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck central Chile Sunday, prompting an evacuation of coastal areas for fear of a tsunami and causing scenes of panic in an area devastated by a massive quake two years ago.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or significant damage, officials in Chile said.

But authorities ordered the evacuation of the central coast of Chile -- the same area devastated in 2010, when officials were criticized for waiting too long to allow residents to escape a tsunami.



The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said "a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected."

Government spokesman Andres Chadwick said the Office of National Emergencies had issued the evacuation order as a precaution due to "observation of a certain intake of the sea."

Chadwick said the decision was taken preventively to protect the population even though the visual sighting of the sea conditions had not been confirmed by technical experts from the navy's Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service.

In its first quake damage report, the emergency office said one person was injured in a car accident in the Bio Bio region.

"For now we do not have reports of any fatalities. There is some evidence of people injured, unfortunately from pieces of walls that fell," Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter said.

The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at 2237 GMT some 32 kilometres (20 miles) northwest of Talca in Chile's Maule region, the same area ravaged by a massive 8.8 earthquake in late February 2010.

Hundreds of people ran into the streets in Talca in panic during the quake, which was felt for nearly a minute.

Chilean news media reported electrical blackouts and broken phone lines in the area around Talca, 300 kilometres (186 miles) south of the capital, Santiago.

Tall buildings shook in Santiago, and fear gripped people in shopping centres, supermarkets and the city's stadium where a football game was under way.

The USGS initially reported the quake's magnitude as 7.2 but later downgraded it to 7.1.
According to the USGS, which monitors earthquakes worldwide, the epicentre of Sunday's earthquake was
30 kilometres (18.6 miles) below the ground surface.

The Maule coastal region has been periodically shaken by powerful aftershocks since the February 27, 2010 quake, which claimed more than 500 lives and billions of dollars in damage.

Most of the deaths in that quake occurred from tsunamis that slammed into coastal towns and villages.
On Sunday, Chile's Office of National Emergencies (ONEMI), which came under fierce criticism for not issuing a tsunami warning on time in 2010, issued an evacuation order for all coastal residents living along a long swath of central southern Chile.

But it later cancelled the order when naval experts said there was no chance of a tsunami.

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Source From Channel News Asia

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