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Chile regrets panic triggered by mistaken tsunami warning after quake

SANTIAGO — Authorities in Chile said on Saturday they regretted spreading panic with a mistaken tsunami warning calling for people to get out of coastal areas following an earthquake in Antarctica.

The interior ministry said on Twitter that a tremor of magnitude 7.1 struck at 8.36 p.m. 216 km northeast of the O’Higgins Chilean scientific base and called for the coastal regions of Antarctica to be evacuated because of a tsunami risk.

The ministry also sent a message to cellphones around the country urging people to abandon coastal areas, though the ministry later said it was sent in error.

“We want to provide peace of mind to the population, tell them that it is not necessary to evacuate the entire national territory, only the Antarctic base,” Miguel Ortiz of the ministry’s National Emergency Office (ONEMI) told a news conference.

He said the agency regretted the inconvenience caused by its messages, which he blamed on a technical error.

The tsunami warning for Antarctica was later lifted.

People in coastal cities including La Serena, to the north of Santiago, and Valparaiso, started to leave areas close to the coast after the warning until reports started appearing that it was a false alarm.

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