SANTIAGO - A powerful Christmas Day earthquake hit southern Chile on Sunday, triggering tsunami warnings and an evacuation order. The quake registered 7.7 on the Moment Magnitude scale according to seismologists at the US Geological Survey, and 7.6 for the Chilean government’s national emergencies office ONEMI.

The epicenter was on the southern part of Chiloe island, in a zone of several national parks. The closest population center was Castro, a town on the island of 40,000 inhabitants. Chile’s capital Santiago was around 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from the epicenter. ONEMI and the USGS both issued a tsunami alert. Chilean officials called for coastal areas nearby to be evacuated.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, said in a bulletin that “hazardous tsunamic waves are forecast for some coasts.”

 The quake had a depth of 15 kilometers (nine miles) according to the PTWC.

Chile is in a quake-prone region, lying on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire of frequent seismic activity. The last big quake to shake Chile was on September 16, 2015, when an 8.3 temblor followed by a tsunami hit the north of the country, killing 15 people. A coastal evacuation order had limited the number of casualties.