SANTIAGO, Chile, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- A strong earthquake struck central Chile Friday afternoon, followed by at least two powerful aftershocks, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
The first earthquake just after 5 p.m. measured 6.8 on the Richter scale. The first aftershock, about 3 hours later was 5.9 and the second 6.1. Earthquakes between 6.0 and 6.9 can cause considerable destruction over areas within 50 miles of the epicenter.
The epicenter was offshore about 30 miles north of Concepcion and 245 miles south-southwest of the capital, Santiago.
An emergency official said there were unconfirmed reports of deaths in the town of Ercilla, President Sebastian Pinera said. Pinera was in the region when the earthquake hit, visiting the town of Maule.
Officials said telephone service was knocked out in many areas, making damage and casualty reports hard to assemble.