7.1 Earthquake Hits Central Chile

A magnitude-7.1 quake has hit central Chile, rattling buildings in the capital and triggering evacuations along the coast.

Residents in the capital Santiago fled their homes as the tremor rattled television sets, kitchen cabinets and tables.

A mayor in the town of Parral in south-central Chile told local radio a 74-year-old woman died of a heart attack due to the quake.

There were no other immediate reports of serious casualties or damage.

The quake struck 103 kilometres west-north-west of the town of Talca, the US Geological Survey said, revising down an initial magnitude of 7.2.

The quake was at a depth of 10 kilometres.

It was one of the strongest quakes to hit Chile since a massive 8.8 quake devastated the south-central region in early 2010.

That quake triggered ensuing tsunamis, killed about 500 people and hammered roads and infrastructure.

“There is evidence some people were injured, but not badly,” interior minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter said, adding that electricity supply had been restored after disruptions in some areas.

“This event did not produce nor will it produce a tsunami on our country’s coast.”

However, a government official later said there were signs the sea had retreated a bit, and the emergency office reordered a coastal evacuation in the Mauler coastal region as a preventive measure.

With the memory of the 2010 quake still seared into their memories, many Chileans were visibly shaken up.

“I was watching television and all of a sudden the sofa started to move, and lamps started to swing from one side to the other,” said Guild Carrack.

“It just kept moving and didn’t stop. It was very strong.”

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

The 2010 quake caused roughly $US8 billion in insured losses and economic losses of at least twice that.