21,000 homes lose power af­ter quake

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By REUTERS in San­ti­ago

A ma­jor mag­ni­tude-7.6 earthquake jolted south­ern Chile on Sun­day, prompt­ing thou­sands to evac­u­ate coastal ar­eas, but no fa­tal­i­ties or ma­jor dam­age were re­ported in the tourism and salmon farm­ing re­gion.

Chile’s Na­tional Emer­gency Of­fice, or ONEMI, lifted both the evac­u­a­tion or­der and a tsunami watch three hours af­ter the Christ­mas Day quake struck, telling nearly 5,000 peo­ple who had evac­u­ated they could re­turn to their homes.

Onemi said one bridge in the area was im­pass­able as crews worked to re­store elec­tric­ity to 21,000 homes with­out power.

Of­fi­cials had is­sued a tsunami warn­ing ear­lier for ar­eas within 1,000 kilo­me­ters of the epi­cen­ter, just 40 km south­west of Puerto Quel­lon, off the coast. But the warn­ing was down­graded to a tsunami watch. 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, in the south­west­ern city of Bar­iloche, but struc­tural dam­age in ar­eas close to the epi­cen­ter was lim­ited, wit­nesses said.

The quake’s depth was about 35 km, the US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey 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.”

The quake dis­rupted Christ­mas plans for thou­sands of peo­ple who fled their homes on foot, in cars and on horse­back, seek­ing higher ground amid tor­ren­tial rains as sirens warned about the po­ten­tial tsunami.

Quel­lon res­i­dent Denisse Al­varado was pre­par­ing to travel to the coun­try­side to cel­e­brate Christ­mas with friends when she felt the quake and ran out of her home.

“All of a sud­den it shook and shook and shook,” Al­varado, 46, said. “I thought the house would fall and the ground would open be­cause it was very strong and very loud.”

“It was the big­gest scare of our lives,” she said.

I thought the house would fall and the ground would open ... It was the big­gest scare of our lives.” Denisse Al­varado, Quel­lon res­i­dent

Salmon zone

The area hit by Sun­day’s quake was south of Val­divia, where 1,655 peo­ple died in a 1960 quake ranked by the USGS as the most pow­er­ful recorded in Chile.

The re­gion is home to sev­eral in­dus­trial salmon farms. An of­fi­cial with Chile’s Na­tional Fish and Aqua­cul­ture Ser­vice said sev­eral com­pa­nies had evac­u­ated em­ploy­ees and were eval­u­at­ing their fa­cil­i­ties for pos­si­ble dam­age.

Chile is the world’s lead­ing cop­per pro­ducer, but there are no ma­jor mines lo­cated near the zone af­fected by the earthquake.

Chile has a long his­tory of deadly quakes, in­clud­ing a mag­ni­tude-8.8 quake in 2010 off the south-cen­tral coast, which also trig­gered a tsunami that dev­as­tated coastal towns.

AL­VARO VI­DAL / REUTERS

A dam­aged road is seen af­ter a quake at Tarahuin, Chile, on Sun­day.

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