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Magnitude 6.5 Earthquake Strikes Off Chilean Coast

earthquake map
Map of earthquake location today (May 20, 2013) near Chile. (Image credit: USGS.)

An earthquake of preliminary magnitude 6.5 struck today off the coast of Chile, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The temblor's epicenter was 367 miles (590 km) west-southwest of Puerto Quellon and 952 miles (1532 km) south-southwest of the capital, Santiago. It originated 6.2 miles (10 km) deep and struck at 4:49 a.m. (9:49 UTC), the USGS reports.

No tsunami warning was issued and the quake was not felt on land, according to the Associated Press.

Chile's coastline is a seismic hotspot along the very active Pacific "Ring of Fire" thanks to a subduction zone where one plate of Earth's crust dives under another. In 1960, a magnitude 9.5 earthquake, the largest ever recorded, struck in southern Chile. It killed more than 1,600 people in South America, unleashing a tsunami that crossed the Pacific and killed 61 people in Hawaii, Japan, and the Philippines. More recently, a violent magnitude 8.8 earthquake in February 2010 killed more than 500 people, damaged or destroyed thousands of buildings, raised the coastline, and even moved the city of Concepción 10 feet (3 meters) to the west.

Closer to land, earthquakes of the size of the one that struck today can cause significant damage, especially with poorly built structures. The damage caused by any single event depends on the quake's depth, proximity to populated areas, building standards in the region, as well as the type of earthquake. The USGS frequently updates the magnitude of an event after more data is analyzed.

An earthquake's magnitude is a measure of the energy released at the source. It is just one predictor of the shaking that may ensue, which is affected by local and regional geology. Scientists know in a general sense what causes Earthquakes but are unable to predict specific quakes.

This article will be updated if significant additional information becomes available. Find more earthquake news here.

Live Science Staff
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