Posted: 03 January 2011 0610 hrs
SANTIAGO: A strong earthquake shook coastal Chile Sunday, disrupting power and communications services without injuring anyone, authorities said, as tsunami fears led residents to seek higher ground.
The US Geological Survey said the 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck at 2020 GMT 69 kilometers (45 miles) northwest of Temuco, Chile, at a depth of 16 kilometers (10 miles).
Chile's National Emergency Office said the quake was "medium intensity" and struck Biobio, Maule and O'Higgins, a region in south-central Chile that was devastated by a 8.8 magnitude quake and tsunami in February 2010.
The agency's director Vicente Nunez told reporters that, on the basis of initial reports, the quake "did not cause damage or victims," although there were power outages and interruptions in telephone service.
"It's common in these types of situations for telephone services to collapse and for there to be power outages," he said.
The earthquake set off panicky reactions, with people fleeing to higher ground in Puerto Saavedra and Tirua out of fear of tsunamis, according to Chilean television.
But the Chilean Navy's Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service discounted the threat of a tsunami, saying the epicenter was on land and not at sea.
An initial report by the USGS said the quake occurred offshore, but it later revised its findings. US authorities also ruled out the threat of a Pacific-wide tsunami.
"Based on all available data, a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a bulletin.
"However, earthquakes of this size sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts located within a hundred kilometers (62 miles) of the earthquake epicenter," it said.
The National Emergency Office said Sunday's temblor was followed nearly two hours later by a moderate aftershock.
The earthquake was also felt in Argentina's Patagonia region, near the border with Chile, especially in San Martin de los Andes, where dozens of people ran out of the customs building fearing it might collapse, the Bariloche News Agency said.
No injuries or damage from the quake were reported in Argentina.
Chile lies on the Pacific rim of fire and is prone to violent earthquakes. Last February's massive earthquake unleashed a tsunami that swept away entire villages.
The disaster left around 520 people dead, and caused an estimated 30 billion dollars in damage.