Source AP ©

Earthquake strikes northern Chile, no injuries

A major earthquake toppled power lines and closed roads in northern Chile on Wednesday.

Reports of some damage, but no injuries, emerged in sketchy early information about the quake, which was felt strongly in the capital, 1,260 kilometers (780 miles) to the south, as well as in neighboring Peru and Bolivia.

The U.S. Geological Survey calculated the quake's magnitude at 7.7. It struck at 10:40 EST (1540 GMT) and was centered about 170 kilometers (105 miles) north of Antofagasta.

Presidential spokesman Ricardo Lagos Weber said it was centered in the Andean village of Quillahua, near Calama, site of the large Chuquicamata copper mine.

He said initial reports "indicate that there have been no injuries, but some damage has occurred, apparently not serious."

He confirmed that electric power was cut in several cities in northern Chile.

"It was horribly strong. It was very long and there was a lot of underground noise," said Andrea Rivers, spokeswoman for the Park hotel in Calama, 100 kilometers (60 miles) east-southeast of the quake's center.

She said the quake knocked out power to the hotel, but caused no damage. She said she did not know what had happened in town.

"I was very frightened. It was very strong," said Paola Barrie, administrator at the Agua del Desierto Hotel 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Calama. "I've never felt one that strong."

She said the hotel felt "like a floating island" during the quake, which downed powerlines and cracked windows on nearby houses.

A reporter for Radio Cooperativa who had just landed in Antofagasta told the station she saw cracks in the airport tarmac.