Chile: strong earthquake in Antarctica, panic on the Chilean coast

Chile, Viña del Mar, January 23, 2021: the tsunami warning message sent by mistake by the Onemi emergency service was received by the inhabitants of the coast, generating a wave of panic.

The earthquake affected the Antarctic region and did not cause major damage.


Text by: RFI Follow

4 min

A level 7 earthquake on the Richter scale rocked Antarctica on Saturday.

Several scientific bases were evacuated for fear of a tsunami, in particular the bases belonging to Chile, very close.

But the Chilean emergency services also mistakenly sent thousands of people a warning message ordering the evacuation of the beaches, without specifying which regions were concerned.

The notification generated great confusion and scenes of panic among the inhabitants, as the country has several thousand kilometers of coastline.


Read more

with our correspondent in Santiago,

Justine Fontaine

Shortly before the nationally imposed curfew due to the Covid-19 pandemic, an alarm went off on the phones of thousands of Chileans, and the following message appeared on the screen: “EMERGENCY.

Please abandon the beaches (...) »

Chile, Saturday January 23, 2021: a warning message inviting the Chileans to evacuate the coasts was sent by mistake after a strong earthquake that shook Antarctica.


In one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, residents immediately understood that it was a tsunami warning.

Scenes of panic have been recorded at several resorts and coastal towns along the Pacific.


Information that mensaje enviado a celulares corresponds to evacuación in Antarctic base.

Nuestros técnicos están revisando falla del sistema SAE

- onemichile (@onemichile) January 24, 2021

Except this message was sent by mistake to most people, including some living more than 100 kilometers from the ocean.

And to add to the confusion, a second earthquake occurred a few minutes later: very close to Santiago this time, estimated at 5.9 on the Richter scale.

At the end of the evening, the emergency service responsible for providing information on the earthquakes in Chile did not yet seem to have found the source of its error.

A flaw in the warning system?

And some Chileans did not know whether to laugh at earthquakes, as they often do, or worry about a possible flaw in their national warning system.

Read also

: Tsunami warning in Chile, one million people evacuated (2015)

In February 2010, the emergency services had mistakenly ruled out any risk of a tsunami after a very violent earthquake.

An error which had caused the

death of several hundred people


Chilean and foreign bases in the area affected by the Antarctic earthquake were evacuated as a precaution.

But the earthquakes recorded this Saturday did not cause fatal victims or significant material damage.


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  • Chile

  • Geology

  • Natural disasters