A powerful earthquake measuring 7.8 rocked northern Chile late Wednesday, just a day after a deadly 8.2 jolt in the same region, authorities said.
The U.S. Geological Survey said a 7.8-magnitude earthquake was detected late Wednesday night about 23 kilometers south of Iquique, at a depth of 20 kilometers below sea level. The aftershock prompted authorities to issue a new tsunami alert along the Chilean coast and order the evacuation of thousands of coastal residents.
Tuesday\’s quake struck at 20:46 local time (23:46 GMT) about 86km (52 miles) north-west of the city of Iquique, a mining area.
The quake is the strongest of several aftershocks following Tuesday\’s tremor. There have been no reports of damage from the latest quake.
Thousands of Chileans had just returned home after spending the night on hills following Tuesday\’s 8.2-magnitude earthquake that killed six people and sparked tsunami fears as far as Japan.
A tsunami warning put in place for Chile and Peru has now been cancelled.
Police and soldiers patrolled northern coastal areas of Chile to prevent looting, as television footage showed damaged homes and shopping centers in the port city of Iquique, 1,800 kilometers north of Santiago.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet toured the area Wednesday, declaring it a disaster zone. To the north, the quake triggered power outages in Peru, and evacuations in some southern towns there. But there were no reports of serious damage or injuries.
Bachelet called on residents to "work together now" to repair the damage caused by the quake.
Chilean Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said about 300 inmates escaped a woman\’s prison in Iquique. But hours later, authorities said more than 100 of the escapees had voluntarily returned or had been captured.
Chile is one of the world\’s most earthquake prone countries. In 2010, a 8.8-magnitude quake rocked central Chile, killing over 500 people and destroying 220,000 homes.
The region hit by Tuesday\’s quake had also experienced several smaller temblors in recent days, including a 6.0-magnitude earthquake on Sunday.
In 1960 an area of Chile south of Concepcion was hit by a 9.5 magnitude which caused about 1,655 deaths and a tsunami in Hawaii and Japan.
The 9.0 magnitude quake that struck Japan on 11 March 2011 caused a devastating tsunami and left more than 15,000 people dead, with more than 3,200 missing.
Source – Agencies