Latest News Chile: Earthquake 7.2 magnitude in Chile. today 7.2 magnitude earthquake hits in central Chile.
SANTIAGO: A magnitude-7.1 earthquake shook southern Chile on Sunday, sending tens of thousands fleeing for higher ground for fear that it could generate a tsunami like the one that ravaged the coastline last year.
There were no immediate reports of deaths or damage, and Vicente Nunez, head of the National Emergency Office, said no tsunami alert was issued.
‘‘There has been no harm to people, no harm to property,’’ Nunez said. ‘‘We will continue monitoring.’’
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii also said a destructive Pacific Ocean-wide tsunami was not expected.
Some cell-phone communications and electrical power were knocked out in the Araucania region where the quake was centered, 370 miles south-southwest of the capital, Santiago.
The US Geological Survey said the epicenter was about 45 miles away from the provincial capital of Temuco, which has a population of about 250,000.
The quake struck at a depth of about 11 miles, according to the USGS, and there was at least one aftershock of 5.0 magnitude.
When the first temblor struck, people in several coastal cities quickly moved away from the ocean, abandoning some shopping centers entirely.
In the communities of La Araucania, Puerto Saavedra, Tolten and Teodoro Smith, an estimated 50,000 people voluntarily evacuated to higher ground, according to Nunez.
Hundreds of tourists spending the New Year’s holiday at the resorts of Villarica and Pucon cut their trips short and headed north, clogging roads and toll stations.
Residents of the region have fresh memories of the magnitude-8.8 quake and resulting tsunami on Feb. 27, 2010, that killed at least 521 people and left 200,000 homeless.
Sergio Barrientos, director of the seismology office at the University of Chile, said Sunday’s temblor was itself an aftershock of last year’s mega-quake.