Strong Quake, More Aftershocks Rock Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile, March 11 (UPI) — A 7.2-magnitude earthquake and two strong aftershocks rumbled Thursday near Libertador O’Higgins, Chile, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quake and aftershocks struck the administrative division just as Chile prepared to inaugurate Sebastian Pinera as president, CNN reported.

The quake’s epicenter was about 83 miles north of Talca, 85 miles south of Valparaiso and 92 miles southwest of Santiago, Chile’s capital, USGS said, and about 22 miles deep.

Aftershocks registering magnitudes of 6 and 6.9 were felt within an hour of the earthquake.

“A destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Carmen Fernandez, head of Chile’s emergency management agency, resigned after being criticized for the way the agency reacted to the massive earthquake last month. Fernandez told President Michelle Bachelet of her decision in a letter Wednesday, the Latin American Herald Tribune reported Thursday.

Lack of coordination between the agency and the Chilean navy led to a failure to warn of the risk of tsunami after the magnitude-8.8 earthquake Feb. 27. The emergency agency also was criticized for taking so long to organize and send aid to the quake victims.

Nearly 500 people are confirmed dead, officials said. Another 2 million people were injured or displaced by the earthquake.

Fernandez was not a political appointee, the newspaper said. President-elect Pinera said hours after the earthquake he intended to ask her to work in his administration.

The Chilean Education Ministry reported Wednesday the earthquake caused about $1.6 billion in damage to public schools. Preliminary estimates for repairing or replacing public hospitals, roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure destroyed or damaged in the earthquake were set at more than $5 billion.

Swiss Reinsurance Co. said the earthquake would cost insurance companies between $4 billion and $7 billion, the Herald Tribune reported.

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