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Earthquake of magnitude 6.8 strikes northern Chile, causing power cuts

An earthquake of magnitude 6.8 has struck in northern Chile.

The powerful tremor hit the region of Antofagasta around 3.40am, causing several towns to lose power.

Video taken inside a temporary office building at a mining site showed objects moving around and street lights outside swaying back and forth.  

One photo showed what purported to be a crack in the wall of a local hospital following the quake.

Other CCTV footage showed telephone poles and buildings rocking back and forth as the tremor passed. 

However, there have been no reports of major damage or casualties so far.

The Antofagasta regional government said the town of Toconao and the Ayllu de Solor neighbourhood in San Pedro de Atacama were left without power.

Power was restored to the neighbourhood around half an hour later while workers were still trying to repair power cables in Toconao.

Chile is prone to powerful earthquakes because it sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire - a chain of very active seismological zones that circles the Pacific Ocean.

Off the coast of Chile is where the Nazca tectonic plate meets the South American tectonic plate.

The Nazca plate is subducted - or submerged under - the South American plate, creating pressure that is sometimes relieved in the form of earthquakes.

In 2018, Chile was hit by 8,000 quakes in just 12 months, though most of them were too small to be felt.

The last major earthquake hit the country in 2010 with a magnitude 8.8 tremor, causing a tsunami which killed more than 500 people.

Ninety per cent of the population were left without power after the quake, which lasted for several days in some regions.

The tsunami travelled across the Pacific, causing damage in California to the north, and extensive damage to Japanese fisheries some 10,000 miles to the west.

In 1960, Chile was hit by the most powerful earthquake ever recorded - with a magnitude of 9.5.

Estimates of the number of people killed range from 1,000 to 7,000, while it is thought the damage caused cost almost $7billion, adjusted for inflation.

The tsunami caused by the quake hit seven countries including Japan, China, the Philippines, New Zealand and Australia.

Several major landslides were reported in Chile, almost overflowing a major lake and permanently changing the geography of some locations.

The quake also triggered an eruption of the Cordón Caulle volcano, which lasted for 59 days.

Around 40 per cent of houses in Valdivia, the town closest to the epicentre, were destroyed leaving an estimated 200,000 people homeless. 

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