7.1M Earthquake Strikes off Coast of Chile, Near Santiago
A major earthquake of magnitude 7.1 struck off the west coast of Chile on Monday, rocking the capital Santiago and generating at least two significant aftershocks.
No major damage was immediately apparent, according to an assessment by Chile’s emergency services. The Chilean Navy and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake was not expected to cause a tsunami.
Chile’s state-run Codelco, one of the largest copper mining companies in the world, said its operations were unaffected.
The quake was centered 22 miles (35 km) west of the coastal city of Valparaiso at a shallow depth of 6.2 miles (10 km) below the seabed, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
Chilean authorities initially ordered a preventative evacuation of the coastal area near Valparaiso, some 60 miles (97 km) west of Santiago, in case of a tsunami, but canceled it shortly afterward.
A spokesman with the local government in Valparaiso said there were no reports of structural damage so far, but cellphone networks were down in some places.
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.
At least two aftershocks of magnitudes 5.0 and 5.4 were recorded in the same spot and could be felt in Santiago.
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.
From the Weather Channel:
The quake, centered off the central coast near Valparaiso and called “short by very powerful” by one resident, was strong enough to set buildings swaying in the capital Santiago, roughly 100 km away from the epicenter. Numerous aftershocks have been reported since.
A tsunami warning was issued, along with an evacuation along the coast near Valparaiso, but both were cancelled fairly quickly. A tsunami wave of about 15 cm was reported.
Because the quake struck at a relatively shallow depth of 25 km, the shaking was felt in areas hundreds of kilometres away. Reuters reports some buildings visibly shook, and precautionary evacuations were ordered along the coast nearest the quake, though they were quickly cancelled.
No major damage was reported, nor were there any deaths, according to Chilean government officials.
— pablo araya (@Pabloarayasw) April 24, 2017
However, cell phone service was disrupted in some areas, and a few landslides were reported, though operations in the country’s lucrative copper mining industry were apparently largely unaffected.
Chile’s position along the seismically active Pacific Rim makes earthquakes a fact of life for Chileans, who regularly participate in earthquake drills and have a long, and recent, history of earthquakes.
In 2010, a Magnitude 8.8 quake rocked the country, causing billions of dollars in damage and killing more than 500 people.
And in 1960, Chile was the site of the most powerful earthquake ever recorded, with an estimated magnitude of 9.4-9.6, that generated a tsunami that caused damage as far away as Hawaii. Death toll estimates range as high as 7,000.