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Earthquake strikes off Chile coast

A magnitude-7.1 earthquake has struck central Chile, the strongest and longest that many people said they had felt since a huge quake devastated the area two years ago.

Some people were injured by falling ceiling material, but there were no reports of major damage or deaths due to quake-related accidents.

The quake struck about 16 miles north-north west of Talca, a city of more than 200,000 people where residents said the shaking lasted about a minute.

Buildings swayed in Chile's capital 136 miles to the north, and people living along a 480-mile stretch of Chile's central coast were briefly warned to head for higher ground.

Residents were particularly alarmed in Constitucion, where much of the coastal town centre at the mouth of a river was obliterated by the tsunami caused by the 8.8-magnitude quake in 2010.

Panic also struck in Santiago and other cities, with people running out of skyscrapers, and many neighbourhoods were left partly or totally without electrical power. Phone services collapsed due to heavy traffic.

"There are some injuries but nothing serious," said interior minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter, who is serving as acting president while Sebastian Pinera is on tour in Asia.

Mr Hinzpeter said authorities are conducting a thorough survey of the affected regions to look for damage.

The Chilean navy's hydrographic and oceanographic service and the national emergency office called off a tsunami warning for most of the central coast after an analysis showed the quake was not the type to provoke killer waves.

The alert was restored for the area closest to the epicentre after police noticed the ocean had retreated about 130 feet from the shore in the towns of Iloca and Duao.

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