SANTIAGO – A powerful earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale rocked central Chile on Monday causing material damage, although there have been no reports of injuries or worse, and motivating authorities to order an evacuation of the coastal zones of Valparaiso and O’Higgins provinces as a precaution.
According to the University of Chile’s National Seismological Center, the quake struck at 6:38 pm and had its epicenter located 72 kilometers (45 miles) west of Valparaiso, an area in which there have been more than 100 minor temblors in the past 24 hours.
At first, Chilean authorities gauged the quake at 6.7 on the Richter scale, but later that was amended to a reading of 6.9.
The US Geological Survey, however, reported that the temblor measured 7.1 on the Richter scale.
The quake was felt from the Coquimbo region, in the north, to Biobio, in the south, but no changes in the provision of basic services or infrastructure were reported.
Some 34 cities in the country’s central region were affected by the quake.
The Chilean navy’s Oceanographic and Hydrographic Service said that there is no danger of a tsunami, although authorities initially ordered the evacuation of the coastal area anyway as a precaution.
Sixteen minutes after that evacuation order was issued, authorities cancelled it and allowed the people who had begun moving to higher ground to return to their homes.
The Carabineros, Chile’s militarized police, reported that mudslides and landslides had occurred along the international highway leading to the Argentine city of Mendoza, where the quake was also strongly felt, and similar incidents occurred along the Las Palmas roadway near Valparaiso.