January 22nd, 2019

Mw 6.7 Earthquake – Near Coquimbo, Chile

Posted at 5:14 PM ET

1_smallA magnitude (Mw) 6.7 earthquake was reported near Coquimbo, Chile around 01:32 UTC January 20, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The epicenter was located at a depth of 53 km (33 miles) and about 15 km (9 miles) SSW of Coquimbo, Chile, between the regions of Atacama and O’Higgins. Media reports to date indicate variable damage to property and infrastructure, although impacts appear to have been limited by the resilient building codes in the area. Some disruption to transportation has also been reported, along with some impacts to infrastructure and numerous power outages.

Geological Background

The quake occurred around 22:32 local time Saturday January 19 (01:32 UTC January 20), as a Mw 6.7 quake. The epicenter was located about 15 km (9 miles) south-southwest of Coquimbo, Chile at a depth of 53 km (33 miles). Local authorities indicate at least 62 aftershocks in the area since the original Mw 6.7 quake. The quake occurred on the South American Arc, on the boundary separating the subducting Nazca Plate and the South America Plate. The subduction process along these two plates has produced the Andes Mountains, volcanic activity in the area as well as considerable earthquake activity. Since 1900, numerous earthquakes have been reported in the area including several large quakes, of which one was the 1960 Mw 9.5 quake. Chile has a long history of serious quakes in this region, more recently a Mw 8.8 quake in 2010 off the south central cost that triggered a destructive tsunami. The region is generally referred to as the Pacific Ring of Fire.

1_big
USGS Shakemap: Coquimbo, Chile Region. Source: USGS.
The confined minimum adjacent to the epicenter represents values consistent with those reported by the USGS.

Impacts

Initial media reports indicate variable damage to buildings and infrastructure. Portions of Coquimbo and La Serena were both subject to MMI level VII shaking according to the USGS. Major damage was reported to four homes in Andacollo. Landslides were also reported in mountainous terrain of the region. Government Officials estimated as many as 200,000 people without power after the quake disrupted a major power station. Many of the initial outages were corrected after the quake, with an estimated 20,000 without power on Sunday. Recent reports indicate that power outages are down to 1,336 in the affected area. Following the quake, government officials began tsunami preparation for coastal areas, until the threat was dismissed by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Media reports indicate at least two fatalities, both elderly victims, due to cardiac arrest believed associated with the quake. Reports from coastal La Serena indicate that infrastructure damage is concentrated in areas of older construction. Some transportation disruption has also been reported across the area, with partial restoration of road traffic. Impacts are believed to have been limited due to the adoption of strict construction codes in the area.

The USGS Pager Service estimates the most probable range of economic losses between USD 10 million and USD 100 million.

Sources: United States Geological Survey, Associated Press, LaTercera, Reuters

Guy Carpenter publishes CAT-i reports for major natural catastrophes worldwide. These reports cover catastrophes including worldwide tropical cyclones, earthquakes, major UK and European floods and any other natural event that is likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email CAT.i@guycarp.com if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

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