Strong quake shakes Chile

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iol pic wld Chile Earthquake~2 AP File photo - Firefighters inspect a building in downtown Santiago after an earthquake in central Chile.

A powerful 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck near Chile's eastern coastal port of Valparaiso early on Tuesday, shaking buildings as far away as the capital Santiago, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries and the country's main copper mines were unaffected.

State emergency office ONEMI said a stretch of coastline was being evacuated as a precaution, but there was no tsunami alert.

The quake, which the US Geological Survey measured at magnitude 6.5, struck 42km north-northeast of Valparaiso, and 112km north-west of the capital Santiago at a depth of 25.9km.

“We have no reports of any damage or injuries so far,” a spokesman for ONEMI told Reuters. Local media said basic services like power and telecommunications mostly continued to operate normally, although several thousand homes were without power outside Santiago.

The USGS initially said the quake was a magnitude 6.6. Apartment buildings in Santiago shook heavily, and state television broadcast images of lamps swinging in homes in the capital.

State mining giant Codelco, the world's No 1 copper producer, said its operations were not impacted by the quake, as did global miner Anglo American.

State oil company ENAP also said its Bio Bio refinery was operating normally.

Chile is prone to earthquakes, and was hammered by a massive 8.8 magnitude tremor in early 2010 which ravaged the south-centre of the country, devastating industries and triggering tsunamis, in a disaster that killed about 500 people.

The 2010 quake caused roughly $8 billion in insured losses and economic losses of at least twice that.

In the past two years, earthquakes have been a scourge of the insurance industry. In addition to Chile, quakes in Japan and New Zealand in 2011 caused record-breaking losses in the tens of billions of dollars. Mexico has also been rattled by a series of strong quakes in recent weeks. - Reuters

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