Earthquake of magnitude 6.8 strikes near coast of northern Chile

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(Reuters) – A magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck near the coast of Northern Chile on Tuesday, the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences said, with local news media reporting some damage and minor landslides in areas near the epicenter.

Chile’s interior ministry said in a statement that mining companies operating in the area had not reported any issues in the 2-1/2 hours since the initial quake. GFZ has reported several aftershocks of magnitudes between 5.5 and 6.2.

Chile is the world’s largest copper producer and most of its large operations are in Antofagasta region, more than 300 km (180 miles) north of the quake’s epicenter.

Miner Antofagasta Plc told Reuters that its operations at Los Pelambres, the closest large deposit to the epicenter, some 379 km (236 miles) in a straight line, had not been affected.

Patricio Elgueta, a union chief at state miner Codelco’s El Salvador mine 200 km (120 miles) north, said operations continued as normal.

Mine facilities and other infrastructure in Chile are built to withstand large quakes.

The interior ministry’s National Emergency Office said there had been some localized power outages and landslides blocking roads.

The University of Chile’s seismological center said that by early morning it had detected as many as 15 aftershocks around the original epicenter near the port city of Huasco, midway between regional capital La Serena and Copiapo.

Ricardo Toro, the National Emergency Office’s director, said aftershocks would likely continue through Tuesday morning, and urged those being evacuated as a precautionary measure from homes close to the coast to maintain social distancing measures.

Images posted on social media showed localized damage, including collapsed and cracked walls, and supermarket aisles strewn with broken bottles and other fallen merchandise.

There was no tsunami threat, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Chile is on the Ring of Fire, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent earthquakes.

A magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck Chile’s mineral-rich northern desert in June.

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