Magnitude 7.2 quake hits central Chile

Last updated 13:40 26/03/2012

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A major earthquake has hit central Chile, shaking buildings in the capital of Santiago and prompting residents to run out of their houses, although there were no initial reports of injuries or serious damage.

Locals fled their homes as the tremor rattled television sets, kitchen cabinets and tables in Santiago, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

The magnitude 7.2 quake struck 103 km west north west of the town of Talca at a depth of 10 km, the US Geological Survey said.

Government emergency agency ONEMI initially ordered evacuations of some coastal areas as a precaution, but later revoked the decision. The quake was not expected to generate a tsunami off the coast, it added.

Chilean state copper giant Codelco said after the quake that operations were normal at its Andina mine and its El Teniente deposit, which is located nearer the epicenter. Together, the two mines produce about 635,000 tonnes of copper annually.

The country's top oil refinery, Bio Bio, also said operations were normal after the tremor.

The latest earthquake hit near the same central region that was struck by a massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake in 2010 and sparked tsunamis that killed about 500 people.

The quake caused roughly US$8 billion in insured losses and economic losses of at least twice that.

The central area is home to some important copper mines, but the bulk of output in the world's top copper exporting nation is concentrated in the far north.

Quakes of magnitude 7.0 or above are capable of causing major damage.

In the last two years earthquakes have been a scourge of the insurance industry. In addition to Chile, 2011 quakes in Japan and New Zealand caused record-breaking losses in the tens of billions of dollars.

More recently, a major earthquake in Mexico caused limited losses, disaster modelling agencies said, given that it happened well away from major population centres.

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- Reuters

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