A major 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit southern Chile on Sunday, causing thousands to evacuate costal areas. However, there were no fatalities or major damage reported with regards to tourism or the salmon farming region.
Witnesses said they felt intense shaking in their homes and were shocked by the loud noise. It was also reported to disrupt Christmas celebration plans for thousands of people who fled to seek higher ground in some places where sirens warned of a possible tsunami following the quake.
“It was the biggest scare of our lives,” said Denisse Alvarado, a resident of the southern Chile fishing town of Quellon, located on Chiloe Island.
Chile’s National Emergency Office (ONEMI) revoked the evacuation order as well as the tsunami watch approximately three hours after the earthquake struck. Around 5,000 people who had evacuated could then return to their homes safely.
According to ONEMI, one bridge was blocked, and some roads were closed due to workers who worked on restoring power to 21,000 homes who suffered electricity cuts from the quake.
“It’s great news that as of now, we don’t have to mourn any deaths as a result of the earthquake in the south,” Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said on Twitter. “Our goal is to reestablish normalcy in the affected communities.”
According to witnesses, the structural damage in areas close to the epicenter was limited. The earthquake also happened to be felt on the other side of the Andes mountains in Argentina and in the southwestern city of Bariloche.
The quake was shallow, at a depth of about 34.6km, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
“There was a lot, a lot of movement here, but besides that nothing of note, there weren’t houses falling,” said Alamiro Vera, owner of the Cabanas Hotel in Quellon. “It was just scary, and some things inside fell.”
Alvarado, a 46-year-old woman said: “All of a sudden it shook and shook and shook,” Alvarado told Reuters. “I thought the house would fall and the ground would open because it was very strong and very loud.”