Quake hits central Chile; no reports of casualties

EVA VERGARA Associated Press Published:

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- A magnitude-7.2 earthquake struck central Chile Sunday night, the strongest and longest that many people said they had felt since the huge quake that devastated the area two years ago. There were no immediate reports of casualties or major damage.

The quake struck 20 miles (32 kilometers) north-northwest of Talca, where residents said it lasted about a minute.

People living along a long stretch of Chile's central coast were briefly warned to head for higher ground. Residents were particularly alarmed in Constitucion, where much of the coastal downtown at the mouth of a river was obliterated by the tsunami caused by the 2010 quake.

Panic also struck in other cities, with people running out of skyscrapers and many neighborhoods were left partly or totally without electrical power. Phone service collapsed due to heavy traffic.

Residents living near shore were warned to head for higher ground, although the quake struck after nightfall, making evacuations more difficult.

The U.S. Geological Survey initially said the quake had occurred offshore, and the Chilean navy's hydrographic and oceanographic service and national emergency office warned people to head for higher ground. The navy later said the quake wasn't the type to provoke a tsunami, so the evacuation alert was called off.

The quake occurred 19 miles (30 kilometers) deep. The epicenter was 133 miles (215 kilometers) north of Concepcion, and 134 miles (215 kilometers) south of the capital, Santiago.

It was the second significant quake in as many days for central Chile. Residents of Santiago were shaken awake Saturday morning by a 5.1-magnitude temblor that caused no major damage or injuries even though its epicenter was in metropolitan Santiago.