Chile Hit by 6.8-Magnitude Temblor; No Major Damage Reported

Chile’s center-north region was struck by a 6.8-magnitude earthquake as initial reports showed the world’s top copper producer suffering only minor damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey said on its website the quake, initially measured at a magnitude of 6.7, struck at a depth of 28 miles. The “medium-intensity” temblor, which was felt 375 miles to the south in Santiago, hit at 5:17 p.m. local time, the state emergency service known as Onemi said on its website. So far there are no reports of injuries or major damage.

Television images showed supermarket floors littered with broken bottles. Onemi, which has reported two aftershocks so far, is in touch with residents and mining companies to evaluate the extent of the damage.

“People took care of themselves even before authorities could get information out, which undoubtedly makes a difference in quakes of this type,” Miguel Ortiz, head of Onemi’s response unit, told reporters in images transmitted by TV. “We’re calling on people to remain calm.”

The Andean nation in February 2010 was hit by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake that, together with a tsunami, caused hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in damage. Today’s quake doesn’t meet the conditions to create a tsunami, according to the Chilean navy.

There were incidents of voltage drops in the region and traffic jams, Ortiz said, adding that mining companies haven’t reported any injuries. Most of Chile’s mines are in its northern region.

Codelco, the state-owned copper producer, has had no reports so far of damage to its mines, an official said by phone. Marcelo Esquivel, a spokesman for Anglo American Plc in Santiago, said by e-mail there were no reports of injuries or damage and that, as is customary following quakes, the company has halted some work at the Mantoverde mine to inspect equipment and installation.

Antofagasta Plc has no reports of damage, Rosario Cuevas, a communications specialist at Nexos Comunicaciones who represents the mining company, said after talking to an Antofagasta official. A spokesman for Barrick Gold Corp didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on any impact on the company’s operations.