Powerful 7.6 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Chile

On Sunday, Christmas Day no less, Chile was rocked by a powerful 7.6 magnitude earthquake, approximately 25 miles southwest of the town of Quellon, in the southern Patagonia region of the country. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake struck at 2:22 p.m. GMT, with a depth of 34 km below the earth's surface. As a result, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued tsunami warning for areas within 1,000 km of the quake's epicenter; the warning stated that waves of up to a meter over the tide could make landfall, but the Chilean tsunami warning was lifted an hour and a half after the quake when data revealed that a tsunami danger was no longer present.

When large earthquakes hit this region of South America, they tend to be at shallower depths, according to the USGS. No immediate injuries or fatalities were reported from the region. The powerful quake could be felt as far away as Bariloche, Argentina — more than 350 miles away from the quake's epicenter on the southeastern Chilean coast. The Chilean National Emergency Office of the Ministry of Interior and Public Security (ONEMI) said in a press conference that while the tsunami warning has been lifted, residents in the Araucanía, Los Ríos, Los Lagos, and Aysén regions should continue to exercise caution.


Earthquakes of such large magnitude are not uncommon to Chile; in September 2015, a deadly 8.3 magnitude earthquake occurred in Chile, killing 16 people. In 2010, a devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake and tsunami killed more than 700 people in Chile. The September earthquake also triggered a massive tsunami, where 15-foot waves hit the Chilean coast. In 1960, the Valdivia earthquake — also know as the Great Chilean earthquake — registered anywhere from a 9.4 to a 9.6 magnitude, and is known as the largest earthquake in the world. This massive quake was responsible for over 1,600 deaths and over $550 million in damage.

This is also not the first Christmas that the world has been rocked by a major earthquake: In 2004, the 9.2 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Indonesia triggered a devastating tsunami on December 26, killing more than 250,000 in 14 countries. Thankfully, Sunday's earthquake in Quellon, Chile was nowhere near as intense or deadly — and the region is more than prepared for earthquakes given the country's location over several major active fault zones. According to the website Earthquake Track, Chile has had 545 earthquakes in 2016 so far. Still, no matter how common they might be, Sunday's earthquake wasn't exactly the Christmas surprise Chileans were hoping for.