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Chile Lifts Tsunami Alerts After Japan Quake Spawns Waves

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March 12 (Bloomberg) -- Chile canceled tsunami warnings from the northern Atacama Desert to Antarctica after the earthquake in Japan spawned 2-meter (6.6 feet) waves along the South American country’s Pacific Ocean coast.

The government’s emergency service, Onemi, lifted the warnings after evacuating 700,000 people from coastal communities and closing ports. Chile, the world’s biggest copper-producing nation, imposed the warnings yesterday as a precaution for tsunamis triggered by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake that killed hundreds in Japan.

“Now is the moment to evaluate the damage,” Ena von Baer, the government spokeswoman, told reporters. “Our primary concern was to assure the safety and calm of all Chileans. Now, people can return home.”

Television images showed seawater and debris flowed up the Maule River in the southern town of Dichato, while fishing boats slammed into piers farther north. Some areas lost electricity and water services, Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter said in remarks transmitted by CNN Chile. There were no reports of major damage or injuries.

“The ocean has been very unstable, but the good thing is there has been little damage and no one got hurt,” Carlos Zuniga, mayor of Curanipe, a southern fishing village, told television Channel 13.

Ports Reopen

A tsunami that struck Chile following an earthquake on Feb. 27 of last year was responsible for most of the about 500 deaths during the disaster.

Ports in northern and central Chile were scheduled to reopen today. State copper company Codelco ordered personnel to leave its Ventanas smelter on the central coast, a company official said.

“The programmed suspension of port activities may cause a minor delay to shipments, but will not impact sales,” Emily Russell, a spokeswoman for Xstrata Plc, said via e-mail yesterday. Xstrata and Anglo American Plc own the Collahuasi copper mine, the world’s third biggest, in northern Chile.

All ports used by Codelco were closed yesterday, according to a company official. The closures will affect only a few vessels as Codelco had little shipping activity scheduled, the official, who declined to be named citing company policy, said by phone.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Attwood in Santiago at jattwood3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dale Crofts at dcrofts@bloomberg.net

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