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Powerful quake rocks Chile, causes panic but limited damage

A powerful earthquake hit central-northern Chile on Wednesday afternoon, shaking buildings as far away as the capital, Santiago, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Initial reports suggested spotty damage near the epicenter, but there was no word yet on injuries.

The quake, a magnitude 6.8, struck at a depth of 28.4 miles, 63 miles southwest of mining town Copiapo and 364 miles north of Santiago at 5:15 p.m. (3:15 p.m. ET), the USGS said.

Employees reached by phone at the Diego de Almagro Hotel in downtown Copiapo, Chile, said there is damage in the city, including some collapsed homes, but they had no news of injuries.

"We felt it hard and then panic spread," said hotel owner Atilio Bianchi.

Diego de Almagro, the largest hotel in the city, suffered only minor damage, and no one there was hurt, according to Leonor, a front desk clerk.

"It was scary when the furniture started moving," she said.

In February 2010, a massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit just off the coast of central-southern Chile, triggering a tsunami that devastated several coastal communities and killed hundreds of people. The wave caused damage as far away as San Diego, Calif., and Tohoku, Japan.

Wednesday's quake did not match the conditions needed to cause a tsunami in the Pacific, Reuters reported.

Copiapo became the focus of global attention in October 2010, when 33 miners were trapped for 70 days in a nearby copper mine before an international team was able to rescue them.

Reuters contributed to this report.