SANTIAGO: A major 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck southern Chile on Sunday, prompting thousands to evacuate coastal areas in a region known for tourism and salmon farming.
No fatalities were reported from the Christmas Day quake, and officials removed a tsunami warning issued earlier for areas within 1,000km of the epicenter of the quake 225km southwest of Puerto Montt. Eight mostly small ports in the area were closed, Chile's Navy said.
The quake was felt on the other side of the Andes mountains in Argentina, but structural damage in areas close to the epicenter was limited, witnesses said.
"There was a lot, a lot of movement here, but besides that nothing of note, there weren't houses falling," said Alamiro Vera, owner of the Cabanas Hotel in the southern Chile fishing town of Quellon. "It was just scary, and some things inside fell." A Reuters witness said some roads and at least one bridge were damaged in Quellon, located on Chiloe Island, a tourist destination in Chile's Los Lagos region.
Chile's National Emergency Services (Onemi) chief Ricardo Toro said a tsunami watch remained in place even though the warning had been lifted, and reiterated his call for Los Lagos residents to abandon beaches and go to higher ground. Onemi said approximately 4,000 people had evacuated the Los Lagos area.
The quake's depth was about 34.6km, the US Geological Survey said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2016.