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Chile: Earthquake jolts country to start 2011

SANTIAGO, Chile — An earthquake shook Chile, giving the country a jolt to start 2011.

A 6.9 magnitude earthquake shook five regions in southern Chile this afternoon, prompting some residents in coastal areas to head for the hills for fear of a tsunami. No deaths, injuries or major damage have been reported.

The epicenter was located in the Pacific Ocean some 83 miles west of Tirua, 436 miles southwest of the capital, stated the National Emergency Bureau (ONEMI). It struck at 5.21 p.m., local time.

Chile suffered a more serious earthquake in February 2010.

Residents in Pucon, southeast of the epicenter, said their homes shook fairly violently, but did not cause damages to their homes and property.

Electricity and telephone services were broken off, but were gradually restored during the afternoon, said ONEMI officials.

Today’s earthquake was further south than the 8.8 magnitude quake and tsunami in February 2010 that obliterated much of the center-south coast and caused massive destruction in about two-thirds of the country. With these traumatic memories in mind, today many residents in coastal towns quickly made their way to higher ground.

The Navy’s Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service (SHOA) ruled out any potential tsunami, but last February, it was the SHOA’s mistaken assessment that prevented a massive evacuation to higher ground, which could have saved dozens of lives.

ONEMI director Vicente Núñez called on residents to return to their homes. “It is important for everyone to remain calm,” he said. “We are monitoring every region of Chile, and there have been no deaths or injuries, no damage to property.”