(Updates with new dateline from La Serena, quote from hotel receptionist, context)
By Manuel Farías
LA SERENA, Jan 19 (Reuters) - A magnitude 6.7 earthquake hit the coast of north-central Chile on Saturday evening, the U.S. Geological Survey said, and witnesses said it rattled buildings farther south in the capital city of Santiago but left only minor damage in its wake.
The quake struck at 10:32 p.m. local time (0132 GMT) about 15.6 km (9.7 miles) south-southwest of Coquimbo, the USGS said. The quake was 53 km (33 miles) below the surface, a relatively shallow tremor that shook homes and had some worried about a possible tsunami.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, however, quickly discarded a tsunami threat following the tremor.
A Reuters witness reported minor damage to older buildings and power outages in the nearby coastal city of La Serena, a popular beach town about 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Santiago.
"It felt very strong...the tourists were very nervous, but nothing serious happened," Camila Castillo, a receptionist at a hotel in La Serena, told Reuters.
Chilean miner Antofagasta Plc said operations were normal at its Los Pelambres copper mine following the nearby earthquake.
Chile, located on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire," has a long history of deadly quakes, including a 8.8 magnitude quake in 2010 off the south-central coast, which also triggered a tsunami that devastated coastal towns.
But death and destruction are limited by strict construction codes especially designed to withstand earthquakes. (Reporting by Manuel Farias in La Serena, Dave Sherwood and Fabian Cambero in Santiago; writing by Dave Sherwood, Editing by David Gregorio)
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