July 14, 2010 / 9:24 AM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 2-Strong aftershocks rattle Chile but no damage

* Copper mines, oil refineries not affected

* Villagers run for hills on tsunami fears

* Experts say further strong aftershocks likely (Updates with fresh quotes, details throughout)

By Alonso Soto

SANTIAGO, July 14 (Reuters) - A string of aftershocks shook south central Chile on Wednesday, panicking coastal villagers but causing no damage, and experts warned of more strong tremors to come, months after a devastating February quake.

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake, felt as far away as the capital Santiago 345 miles (560 km) away, and three other tremors jolted Chile’s coastline on Wednesday.

The mainstay copper industry, which is mostly located in northern Chile and was spared by February’s quake, was unharmed by the new tremors. The country’s top oil refinery, Bio Bio, was also unharmed.

The new aftershocks rekindled memories of a massive 8.8-magnitude quake and ensuing tsunamis that killed over 500 people on Feb. 27 in the same region and pummeled industries.

“These are normal aftershocks following the February quake. We should expect more, even six months after the earthquake,” said Diana Comte, a geophysics professor at the University of Chile in Santiago.

Scores of residents in coastal villages ran to high ground, fearing a repeat of tsunamis triggered by February’s quake, which wiped out nearby fishing hamlets.

Wednesday’s tremors, which also included two above 4.9-magnitude, hit the region within seven hours, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Additional reporting by Peter Cooney in Washington, Editing by Simon Gardner and Sandra Maler

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