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Chile Rocked by 6.7 Earthquake, Over 100 Aftershocks

March 17, 2014

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This Google Maps view shows the area of concern between Arica and Tocopilla.

A massive earthquake and more than 100 aftershocks rattled Chile's Pacific coast Sunday, prompting Chilean authorities to briefly evacuate more than 100,000 people in coastal areas in case of a tsunami. 

The U.S. Geological Survey said a 6.7-magnitude tremor struck offshore 37 miles northwest of Iquique, Chile at  about 4:16 p.m. Just hours later, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit the same region.

The region has had a series of strong shocks since the quake earlier Sunday, registering between 4.9 and 5.2 magnitude.

Many children stayed away from school in Chile's northern coastal region Monday as aftershocks continued to rattle the area.

More than 100 aftershocks, including a tremor late Sunday of magnitude-6.2, had been recorded since the strong earthquake struck just offshore Sunday evening, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Most were imperceptible but a few unsettled residents of the coastal towns in northern Chile, leading some people to sleep in their cars or outdoors.

The initial quake caused only minor damage, though officials briefly evacuated more than 100,000 people from coastal zones.

Education officials in the Tarapaca region said about 60 percent of students missed classes Monday.

(MORE: Massive Quake Likely?)

Franz Schmauck, Arica and Parinacota regional director of Chile's ONEMI emergency services office, told state TV that no damage was registered except for broken windows on some homes.

ONEMI's national director, Ricardo Toro, told reporters later that about 80,000 people were evacuated in the Tarapaca region, 3,000 in Arica and Parinacota region and 22,000 in Antofagasta region. He said the sea had risen almost 13 inches.

Chile's Emergency Office called for a return to normalcy and said offices and schools would be open on Monday.

"We're a seismic country and we have to return to our daily lives, we have to continue working," said the agency's national director, Ricardo Toro.

Chile is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries. A magnitude-8.8 quake and the tsunami it unleashed in 2010 killed more than 500 people, destroyed 220,000 homes, and washed away docks, river fronts and seaside resorts.

The strongest earthquake ever recorded also happened in Chile, a magnitude-9.5 tremor in 1960 that killed more than 5,000 people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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