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6.7 magnitude quake hits northern Chile: USGS
by Staff Writers
Santiago (AFP) Jan 31, 2013


A strong 6.7-magnitude earthquake jolted northern Chile on Wednesday, killing a woman, knocking out electricity and phone services, and sending panicked residents running into the streets.

The earthquake occurred at 2015 GMT some 102 kilometers (63 miles) from the mining town of Copiapo, the site of a famous 2010 rescue operation, the US Geological Service said.

The epicenter was about 800 kilometers north of the capital Santiago.

Late Wednesday, Interior Minister Andres Chadwick announced that a woman in her 50s had suffered a fatal heart attack during the quake. The temblor otherwise appeared to have caused only minor damage, with no other reports of casualties.

The quake, which lasted longer than a minute, downed phone service and power in nearby cities, local officials said.

Panicked people ran out into the streets of the town of Atacama, recalling a tsunami that hit the south three years ago. Homes were were damaged in the city of Vallenar, and in Copiapo the quake knocked out windows.

"At city hall, some fragile items were smashed and a television set fell. Some people ran out of the building," Vallenar mayor Cristian Tapia said.

He said stunned residents ran into the streets, and that some of them were treated for panic attacks in local medical centers.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said in a preliminary report that there was no tsunami threat, but that an earthquake of such magnitude could cause localized damage.

In February 2010, a massive 8.8-strength earthquake hit Chile's central Maule region, south of Valparaiso, generating tsunami waves, killing more than 500 people and causing about $30 billion in damage.

But experts said that Wednesday's quake was on a different tectonic plate from the 2010 temblor.

The town of Copiapo attracted global attention two years ago when 33 workers were trapped deep inside a nearby mine for more than two months before being rescued.

It took emergency services 17 days to drill a small shaft to establish contact, and more than two months of painstaking effort before they opened a passageway wide enough to pull them out, one by one.

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