Chilean authorities spread false tsunami warning, apologize for causing panic

The message was only meant for Chilean bases in Antarctica

Chilean authorities have apologized for spreading panic with a mistaken tsunami warning, according to reports.

A magnitude 7.1 earthquake in Antarctica struck Saturday at 8:36 p.m. local time, northeast of a Chilean scientific base.

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Chile's interior ministry sent a warning for the coastal regions of Antarctica to be evacuated due to a tsunami risk, but the message also went out to mobile phones throughout Chile, urging people to abandon coastal areas, according to Reuters

The ministry said afterward that the message 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 said at a news conference.

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The agency expressed regret that the message caused so much panic and inconvenience.

The Chilean mining regulator Sernageomin said that following the earthquake, 80 people were evacuated from the main Antarctic base and another 80 people from three other bases, according to the New Strait Times

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Residents in the Chilean coastal cities of La Serena and Valparaiso started to leave their homes after receiving the cell phone warning. After they learned the warning was a mistake, another tremor struck the Chile-Argentina border region.

No damage was reported from either quake.