Posted: 12 February 2011 0512 hrs
SANTIAGO - A powerful earthquake struck Friday off the coast of Chile, throwing a scare into residents nearly a year after a massive temblor and tsunami wreaked death and destruction in the same region.
There was no initial reports of casualties or damage, but media reports said the quake was felt in a wide area of central Chile, where some residents evacuated coastal areas as a precaution.
The US Geological Survey and Chile's National Emergency Office (ONEMI) said the quake occurred in the Pacific some 70 kilometres (45 kilometres) from the city of Concepcion.
The USGS initially reported a major 7.0 magnitude, and later revised that to 6.8, which can still cause devastation.
The quake struck at 2005 GMT near a region in central Chile that was heavily damaged by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake and tsunami on February 27, 2010.
Rodrigo Ubilla, an Interior ministry official, said there were no casualties or damage to buildings reported and praised the "exemplary" reaction of the population, saying the people showed "maturity" after last year's
Last year's disaster led to more than 500 deaths and $30 billion dollars in damage, and led to an inquiry over the lack of a timely tsunami warning.
ONEMI director Vicente Nunez said "people reacted with concern," because the incident occurred near the anniversary date of the tsunami, and urged people to return to their homes.
President Sebastian Pinera visited the ONEMI headquarters late in the day to review the situation. Earlier this week, he said reconstruction from the devastation last year would extend until 2014, with many schools, roads and hospitals still needing repairs.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that "a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected," from this quake but that earthquakes of this size "sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts" within a 100 kilometers of the epicentre.
"Authorities in the region of the epicenter should be aware of this possibility and take appropriate action," it said.
A spokesman for Chile's emergency office said of the latest quake, at a depth of 14.8 kilometres, "does not have the characteristics to create a tsunami."
Chilean seismologists said it was not usual to see aftershocks from a quake as large as the one last year, even a year later.
The USGS said the location of the earthquake was 395 kilometres (245 miles) southwest of Santiago.
- AFP /ls