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7.1 quake rocks central Chile

Residents panic but apparently escape any serious injuries or damage.

January 03, 2011|By Fabiola Gutierrez and Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Santiago, Chile, and Bogota, — A strong earthquake rattled central Chile on Sunday, panicking residents but apparently causing no serious injuries or damage, authorities said.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured Sunday's quake at magnitude 7.1, two-tenths of a point higher than the University of Chile's calculation.

The epicenter was near the coastal community of Tirua in the Araucania region. The site is about 385 miles southwest of the capital, Santiago.

Hundreds of people reportedly fled in their cars for higher ground, fearing a replay of tsunamis that followed the devastating quake in February that ravaged Concepcion to the north. But aside from power and cellphone outages, no major problems were reported Sunday.

Last year's magnitude 8.8 earthquake killed 486 people, left 79 missing and caused billions in damage, according to official tallies. The president's office said 220,000 homes were lost.

President Sebastian Pinera pledged to provide housing for families that lost homes. He diverted billions of dollars, including money from a special stabilization account funded by copper profits, for reconstruction and resettlement efforts.

Vicente Nunez, director of Chile's National Emergency Office, said there was no danger of a tsunami like the one that caused extensive damage in Chilean coastal communities after last year's quake, an assessment shared by the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

"This is a temblor appropriate to the behavior of the country's tectonic plates and has no direct relation to the events of Feb. 27," Nunez said.

Special correspondents Gutierrez reported from Santiago and Kraul from Bogota.

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