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Northern Argentina hit by 7.0 quake

by Staff Writers
Buenos Aires (AFP) Jan 1, 2011
A strong earthquake measuring 7.0 hit a sparsely populated region of northern Argentina early Saturday, the US government and Argentine officials said.

The epicenter of the tremor, which occurred at 6:56 local time (0956 GMT), was located 160 kilometers (100 miles) northeast of the city of Santiago del Estero, according to the US Geological Survey.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, and the quake occured at a depth of 583.6 kilometers (362.6 miles).

Because the earthquake was so deep below the earth's surface, it only registered at a magnitude of around 2.0 to 3.0 degrees, seismologist Marcelo Pena from the Argentine national earthquake institute Inpres.

He said the epicenter of the quake was 40 kilometers (24 miles) from the town of Campo Gallo in northern Santiago del Estero province, a desert region which is sparsely populated with only about 5,000 residents.

The reading was based on the open-ended Moment Magnitude scale, now used by US seismologists, which measures the area of the fault that ruptured and the total energy released.

The same quake jolted parts of the north of neighboring Chile, particularly the town of Socaire, near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile's National Emergency Office reported.

There were no immediate reports of damage, infrastructure problems or injuries, the Chilean office added.

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