At 20:36 on Saturday night, the country’s Interior Ministry issued a warning that a magnitude 7.1 earthquake was 216 kilometers northeast of Chile’s O’Higgins science base on top of the Antarctic Peninsula. In a tweet, the ministry called for the coastal areas of Antarctica to be evacuated due to the risk of a tsunami.
But the ministry mistakenly sent the message to mobile phones across the country, urging people to abandon coastal areas.
“We want to reassure the population, to tell them that it is not necessary to evacuate the entire national territory, but only the Antarctic base,” Miguel Ortiz of the ministry’s National Emergency Bureau (ONEMI) told a news conference.
He said the agency regretted the inconvenience caused by its reports, which it blamed for a technical error. The Antarctic tsunami warning was later lifted.
But the clarification came too late to control the panic. People in coastal towns, including La Serena, north of Santiago and Valparaiso, began leaving areas near the coast after the warning ̵
As Chileans responded to the warning, a second 5.6 magnitude quake struck the Chilean-Argentine border region, according to the German Geological Survey GFZ. The tremor measured a depth of 133 km (82.6 miles) and occurred 30 km (18.6 miles) east of Santiago.
No damage was reported from any earthquake.
Sernageomin said that after the first quake, 80 people were evacuated from Chile’s main base in Antarctica, the Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva base on the Fields Peninsula, west of King George Island, and another 55 from three other bases, along with five foreign bases.
The second earthquake was near the copper mines Andina and Teniente of Codelco and Los Bronces of Anglo American PLC.
Chilean mining regulator Sernageomin said workers, mining operations and facilities did not report any problems after the quake.