Magnitude 7.7 quake hits northern Chile

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SANTIAGO, Nov 14 (Reuters) A powerful 7.7 quake hit mineral-rich northern Chile today, injuring some people and damaging buildings in and around Antofagasta, a coastal city that is the country's mining capital, the government and media reports said.

Tocopilla, a city 75 miles (120 km) north of Antofagasta, was the hardest hit by the quake and Chile's Interior Ministry said it had preliminary reports of minor injuries.

Television images showed cars crushed under the concrete awning of a hotel in Antofagasta, where power was knocked out by the quake.

Frightened residents stood in the streets.

The United States Geological Service, or USGS, said the quake, 36.7 miles (60 km) deep, was centered 66 miles (106 km) west of the town of Calama and struck at 12:40 pm local time (2110 IST).

The quake was initially reported at 7.8 magnitude by the US agency and later verified at 7.7.

The quake hit an area where there are many large copper mines.

Chile is the biggest copper producer in the world, providing more than a third of annual supplies of the red metal.

Copper futures in New York jumped by as much as 3.2 per cent after reports of the quake .

Chilean state copper miner Codelco said it did not yet have a report on the effect on its mines.

Chile's Escondida, owned by BHP Billiton and the world's largest copper mine, said the earthquake was felt at its pit in northern Chile but it did not yet have an assessment of the effects.

Chilean authorities discounted the chances of a tsunami along its Pacific coast after the quake.

The earthquake was felt in Peru and Bolivia, Chile's neighbors to the north.

In Bolivia's administrative capital La Paz, a key government building, home to several ministries, was evacuated.

But there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage to infrastructure.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for Hawaii, west of Chile across the Pacific, but said the quake would cause only small non-destructive sea level changes and strong unusual currents for a few hours.

''Based on all available data there is no destructive tsunami threat to Hawaii,'' the center said in its advisory.


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