New earthquake prompts evacuation

A magnitude-7.1 earthquake shook southern Chile, prompting tens of thousands to flee the coast for higher ground amid fears it could generate a tsunami like the one that ravaged the area last year.

There were no reports of deaths or damage, and Vicente Nunez, head of the National Emergency Office, said no tsunami alert was issued.

Residents have fresh memories of the magnitude-8.8 quake and resulting tsunami on 27 February last year, which killed at least 521 people and left 200,000 homeless.

President Sebastiá* Piñera urged calm in an address to the nation. "There was an exercise of self-evacuation, which is exactly what we have asked people to do," Mr Piñera said. "Fortunately we do not have to lament accidents or losses of life."

Some mobile phone communications and electrical power failed in the Araucania region where the quake emanated from, 370 miles south-west of the capital, Santiago.

The US Geological Survey said the epicentre was about 45 miles from the provincial capital of Temuco, which has a population of about 250,000. Hundreds of tourists spending the New Year at the resorts of Villarica and Pucon cut their trips short.

Sergio Barrientos, the director of the seismology office at the University of Chile, said Sunday's earthquake was itself an aftershock of last year's mega-quake.