(Updates with magnitude downgraded to 6.9, quote from
president, suspension at oil refinery)
By Rosalba O'Brien
SANTIAGO, April 24 A strong earthquake of
magnitude 6.9 struck off the west coast of Chile on Monday,
rocking the capital Santiago and briefly causing alarm along the
Pacific Coast but sparing the quake-prone nation of any serious
The quake was centered about 85 miles (137 km) from
Santiago, and some 22 miles (35 km) west of the coastal city of
Valparaiso. The U.S. Geological Survey twice revised the
magnitude before settling on 6.9, a strength usually capable of
causing severe damage.
The epicenter's shallow depth of 15.5 miles (25 km) below
the sea allowed it to be felt hundreds of miles (km) away.
Santiago office buildings swayed for about 30 seconds at the end
of the workday.
Closer to the epicenter, residents scrambled for higher
ground, remembering the lessons of the country's devastating
earthquake and tsunami in 2010.
"It was short but very powerful," said Paloma Salamo, a
26-year-old nurse, who was in a clinic in Viña del Mar, just
north of Valparaiso, when the quake struck.
People ran from the facility carrying children and some
headed for the hills when the tsunami alarm sounded, she said,
but calm was soon restored.
"So far there has been no human loss nor significant
damage," President Michelle Bachelet said, praising people for
evacuating in an orderly fashion in the immediate aftermath.
Officials canceled a tsunami warning that had been issued in
Valparaiso. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported small
tsunami waves of half a foot (15 cm).
There were no reports of structural damage in Valparaiso,
but cellphone networks were down in some places, a spokesman
with the local government said.
FELT BEYOND THE ANDES
Videos from the Valparaiso area showed objects falling from
store shelves, rocks falling onto roads and lights flickering.
The quake was felt as far away as Argentina, on the other side
of the Andes.
Interior Minister Mario Fernandez said there had been some
landslides but "in general the situation is pretty normal
bearing in mind the quake's intensity."
Strict construction codes in Chile limit damage to
Copper mining was unaffected, according to Chile's state-run
Codelco, one of the largest copper mining companies in the
world, and Anglo American, which has copper operations in
But interruptions in the electricity supply led the
Aconcagua oil refinery to temporarily suspend operations for
safety reasons, state-run oil firm ENAP said. There was no
damage to either of Chile's two refineries, ENAP said.
Several aftershocks including two of magnitudes 5.0 and 5.4
were recorded in the same spot and could be felt in Santiago,
part of a cluster of tremors from that area in recent days.
Chile, located on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire," has
a long history of deadly quakes, including a 8.8 magnitude quake
in 2010 off the south-central coast, which also triggered a
tsunami that devastated coastal towns. More than 500 people
That was the sixth-largest earthquake ever recorded,
according to the USGS. The largest recorded temblor in history
was also in Chile, a 9.5-magnitude quake in 1960.
The long, slender country runs along the border of two
tectonic plates, with the Nazca Plate beneath the South Pacific
Ocean pushing into the South America Plate, a phenomenon that
also formed the Andes Mountains.
(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien, Fabian Cambero, Gram Slattery,
Felipe Iturrieta and Jorge Otaola; additional reporting by
Sandra Maler in Washington; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by
G Crosse and Mary Milliken)