World News

Strong quake hits near Argentina, Chile border, no damage reported

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - A strong quake hit western Argentina, shaking buildings as far away as Santiago, the capital of neighbouring Chile, though there were no reports of damage to people, infrastructure or basic services.

Chile’s navy ruled out a tsunami after the quake, which the U.S. Geological Survey said was a magnitude 6.4. Both Chilean and Argentine authorities said there were no reports of injuries or damage.

The quake’s epicentre was 14 miles (24 km) southwest of the Argentine town of San Juan, and about 165 miles (267 km) northeast of Santiago in Chile. The tremor was initially reported as a magnitude 6.7 but was later downgraded.

Chilean state-owned copper producer Codelco, the globe’s largest copper exporter, said that none of its operations were affected by the quake. Codelco’s open-pit Andina and El Teniente underground mines are located in central Chile, not too far from the quake’s epicentre.

Global miner Anglo American said that its Los Bronces copper mine in central Chile, also near the epicentre, was operating normally.

Alejandro Giuliano, director of Argentina’s seismic institute, told Reuters there were no reports of injuries or damage but added that he could not rule out “minor damage to poorly built constructions located near the epicentre.”

He added that there had not been a quake of this magnitude in Argentina since the 1980s.

“There have been some aftershocks, we’ve registered four already and surely there will be more considering the magnitude of the quake,” he said, adding that the temblor was also felt in Argentina’s Mendoza and Cordoba provinces.

Although a magnitude 6.4 is considered a strong earthquake capable of causing severe damage, it was fairly deep - 71.9 miles (115.71 km) below the Earth’s surface, which would have lessened its effects. Additionally, Chile and Argentina are accustomed to frequent quakes.

Situated on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” Chile runs along a seismic zone where tectonic plates rub up against each other. It is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, and in 1960 was hit by a 9.5 magnitude quake, the strongest in recorded history.

In recent years, the biggest quake to hit Chile was an 8.8 magnitude tremor that struck the central-southern region in 2010, triggering a tsunami and killing more than 500 people.

Practice drills are frequent in Chile, and builders follow strict construction codes, all of which tends to limit death and destruction when tremors hit.

Reporting by Anthony Esposito in Santiago, Sandra Maler in Washington and Eliana Raszewski in Buenos Aires; Editing by Peter Cooney and Sandra Maler