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STORY HIGHLIGHTS Via CNN:

  • NEW: First hit at 11:39 a.m. local time; second 16 minutes later; third 27 minutes later
  • First shook the ground near Chilean coast; epicenter about 71 miles from Valparaiso
  • New president, Sebastian Pinera, set to be inaugurated in Valparaiso as quake struck
  • Television footage showed inauguration proceeding

Santiago, Chile (CNN) — Three strong earthquakes rocked Chile on Thursday morning, just as the country was swearing in a new president.

A 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit at 11:39 a.m. local time (9:39 a.m. ET), followed by a 6.9-magnitude quake 16 minutes later, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. A third, measured at magnitude 6.0, came 27 minutes later.

They were the strongest aftershocks to rattle Chile since a February 27 earthquake on the country’s west coast that toppled buildings and spawned a tsunami, killing several hundred people.

The first quake Thursday shook the ground near Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins, near the Chilean coast, just as Chile prepared to inaugurate a new president, Sebastian Pinera.

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