April 17, 2012 – 6.7 Magnitude Earthquake Struck Valparaiso, Chile: A strong earthquake struck 69 miles from Santiago late Monday while Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was visiting.
The quake left high-rise buildings in the Chilean capital swaying back and forth.
The quake, which the U.S. Geological Survey initially measured at a magnitude of 6.5 and then upgraded to 6.7, struck 42 kilometers (26 miles) NNE of the main port of Valparaiso, and 112 kilometers (69 miles) northwest of the capital Santiago, at a depth of 37 kilometers (23 miles).
“The prime minister (picture below) and his wife were at the hotel when the earthquake happened,” said Andrew MacDougall, Harper’s director of communications. “All members of the Canadian delegation, including the prime minister and his wife Laureen, are just fine.”
The earthquake struck at 11:50PM on April 16th local time (and New York EDT). It was 10:50PM in Chicago, 9:50PM in Denver and 8:50PM in Los Angeles and 17 April at 3:50AM in London, England.
The tremors in Santiago lasted about 30 seconds.
A contingent of Canadian media travelling with the prime minister were staying at a separate hotel from Harper and most reporters had just returned to their hotel rooms after a lengthy day of covering the prime minister’s visit to the city.
Suddenly, the hotel shook violently and there was a loud rumble. Then, the building swayed back and forth.
Harper arrived in Santiago early Monday morning and met senior members of the Chilean government as part of a push to expand trade ties with the country and the region.
He was scheduled to fly home from Santiago at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday — about seven hours after the earthquake struck. There was no indication his travel plans would be delayed.
Shortly after the earthquake, a stretch off Chile’s coastal area was evacuated as a precaution. There was no initial word on damage to buildings, and the government’s emergency office said there were no immediate reports of any injuries. No tsunami warning was issued.
This is the second major earthquake to hit central Chile in the last three weeks. On March 25, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit the central part of the nation, shaking buildings in Santiago.
Chile, on the western coast of South America, is prone to frequent earthquakes because it is located on the region’s “Ring of Fire” of volcanoes and fault lines (see top map). Of the 354 global magnitude 7.0 or greater quakes, since 1973, Chile is ranked sixth on the top 20; as shown in the chart above. (Credits: Top picture – Reuters, Center Picture – The Montreal Gazette, Bottom Graph – data NOAA, Graph W. G. Foster)
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