Chile hit by strong aftershocks

A 6.9-magnitude aftershock struck Chile at 11:39 a.m. Thursday, just 21 minutes before the country was to inaugurate its new president, Sebastian Pinera.

A total of seven aftershocks strongly swayed buildings, shook windows and sent frightened Chileans streaming into the street. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damages.

The aftershocks startled foreign dignitaries and caused last-minute cancellations.

The U.S Geological Survey said the 6.9-magnitude aftershock was 22 miles deep and centered 95 miles southwest of Santiago.

The epicenter was in Rancagua, near the Chilean coast, 71 miles from the National Congress, where the inauguration ceremony was held.

Presidents from Latin American nations were standing outside the National Congress building, which, according to witnesses, shook from side to side.

The inauguration ceremony took place without a hitch, but lasted only 34 minutes. Many of the guests, especially the international visitors, were extremely nervous.

After the ceremony ended, everyone was evacuated and taken to higher ground for safety reasons, said Alfonso Concha, president of the National Office of Emergencies of Chile (ONEMI). A lunch Piñera had organized in the National Congress was canceled.

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