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Major earthquake rocks Chile; Harper unhurt

Prime Minister Stephen Harper attends a news conference at the Presidential palace in Santiago, Chile on April 16, 2012.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen were awakened by a major earthquake as they overnighted in the Chilean capital.

Buildings shook throughout the city at around 12:50 a.m. local time in what the United States Geological Survey (USGS) rated as a 6.7 magnitude earthquake centred 112 kilometres from the city.

"The Prime Minister and his wife were at the hotel when the earthquake happened," said Andrew MacDougall, Mr. Harper's director of communications.

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"All members of the Canadian delegation, including the prime minister, and his wife, Laureen, are just fine."

Still, the event shook up the media and delegation travelling with Mr. Harper who were wrapping up a four-day trip to Colombia and South America.

On his Twitter page, Saskatchewan Tory MP Randy Hoback wrote, "With PM in Chile. Just experienced Earthquake. Everything A ok! Just freaky!"

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake's epicentre was 42 kilometres northeast of Valparaiso and it had a depth of 37 kilometres.

There were no immediate reports of damage or deaths, but the quake was felt for almost a minute in the port city of Valparaiso and in the capital, Santiago.

Chile's National Emergency Office of the Interior and Public Security Ministry ordered an evacuation of certain coastal as a precaution. Authorities said there was no apparent threat of a tsunami.

The quake knocked out power and telephone service in various parts of Santiago and there were reports of rockslides on a highway outside of the city. But the National Emergency Office of the Interior Ministry said that it had received no reports of major damage.

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Chile is highly earthquake-prone. A magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck central Chile on March 25 — a day after the country was hit by a 5.1 magnitude quake. In 2010, an 8.8-magnitude quake caused a tsunami that obliterated much of the coastal downtown of the central Chilean city of Constitucion.

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